COVID-positive repatriation aircraft arrival in the Northern Territory tests positive for the Omicron variant

A repatriation flight traveler to Darwin has tested positive for the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

The man has been quarantined at the Howard Springs quarantine facility since arriving from South Africa on 25 November.

“I can confirm today that the genomic sequencing has shown that the man has the Omicron variant of COVID-19,” said NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles.

It happens as the Northern Territory has registered two new local COVID-19 cases linked to the Katherine cluster within the last 24 hours.

The cases bring the total number of cases linked to the local cluster to 58.

One of the new cases is with a 17-year-old girl from the distant Binjari community, who is a household contact and has been in the Howard Springs quarantine facility throughout her infectious period.

The other is a 19-year-old Binjari woman who tested positive while in the Binjari community as part of the third round of testing conducted there.

The 19-year-old and her household contacts will be transported to Howard Springs.

Ms Fyles said that because Binjari was still under tough lockdown conditions, she was “sure” that the case was not a threat to the NT community.

She said 153 tests had been carried out in Binjari on Sunday and that further tests would be carried out tomorrow.

An aerial photo of the Binjari community in the northern territory.
Both of the new COVID cases discovered in the NT overnight were from the Binjari community.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Mrs Fyles said the man with the Omicron tribe had flown on a return flight from Johannesburg to Darwin and was then transported directly to the Howard Springs quarantine center.

“He’s quarantined there,” she said.

“He will be cared for properly.”

She said territories should be assured that the facility was separated by different zones.

“So our international repatriations do not interact with any of our community members, territories that may be in the facility as a close contact,” she said.

Acting Chief Health Officer Charles Pain said he was “not too worried” about the arrival of the Omicron variant.

“We have a very functioning quarantine facility there, we have not had any breaches, [and] this person – and the whole group of people because they were on a return flight – is in quarantine. “

All Lajamanu test results come back negative

All 147 tests conducted in the remote community of Lajamanu – which was put on hold Saturday after positive wastewater was discovered – have returned negative, Ms Fyles said.

Further wastewater results are expected later tonight.

Dr. Pain said authorities had not yet determined the origin of the community’s positive wastewater result.

“There is a huge effort [that’s] gone in there and we have not found any positive cases, “he said.

“It is possible that there was someone moving through the community. But we can not conclude anything yet.”

Daily wastewater tests are also conducted in nearby remote communities, including Yuendumu and Kalkarindj, to check for cases there.

In Katherine, recent sewage results, which came back Sunday night, have shown a supposedly positive for the Bicentennial Road catchment, as well as the Chambers Crescent catchment located upstream.

An aerial photo of sewage ponds in Katherine.
Traces of COVID in Katherine’s wastewater appear to be weakened. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Mrs Fyles said that while the results were weakening, it was still important for everyone in Katherine who is experiencing symptoms to come forward and be tested.

“It could be someone who releases the virus, or it could be another case that we need to be aware of,” she said.

Dr. Pain said in Robinson River, where day-12 testing is underway today, that all signs were positive and restrictions would likely be eased soon.

There are currently 377 close contacts attached to the Katherine COVID cluster.

Of those, 370 have been contacted, isolated and returned a negative test.

More than 1,800 people in the NT have been tested for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.

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