Genomic testing confirms source of NT’s COVID-19 epidemic as viruses continue

“This is good news, but it’s not a day to get ahead of ourselves.”

He said people should not assume that the explosion is under control and the virus has been caught.

“This is Delta, it’s in big vulnerable households. We’re not out of the woods,” he said.

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Genome test results released late Thursday confirmed that the current cluster is tied to NT’s first case of community distribution earlier this month.

This was triggered by a 21-year-old woman who was traveling illegally to Darwin from Cairns after visiting Victoria, where she contracted the virus.

She infected a man in Darwin when the virus spread to two others in Katherine before authorities stated they had control of the outbreak on 9 November.

But that was short-lived, with the same variant of virus now found to be responsible for the current cluster in Katherine – 320 km south of Darwin – and Robinson River.

That outbreak began Monday when a 30-year-old woman and a 43-year-old man from Katherine were reported to be infected.

The woman was unvaccinated and traveled from Katherine to Robinson River – 1000 km southeast of Darwin – where she tested positive, the first case reported in a remote NT indigenous community.

Nine new cases were detected in Katherine on Tuesday, including a 71-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman who were admitted to Royal Darwin Hospital.

Eight new cases were reported on Wednesday, with five infections diagnosed in Robinson River, including a three-week-old girl.

All infected are Indigenous Territories.

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Health teams will focus on finding the missing links between the two clusters, and NT Health says it now knows the virus circulated in Katherine from Nov. 4-13.

They identified 384 close contacts, with 288 contacted and isolated, and 201 returning negative tests.

“There is also a strong possibility that close contacts that have turned out negative will give a positive test in coming days,” Gunner said.

“We still have a lot of testing and tracks to do, but things look more positive.”

All 350 residents at Robinson River have been tested but many results will not be available until later in the week.

About 50 people from the community were transferred to quarantine at the National Center for Resistance.

“The best thing about no additional cases is the time it takes to buy our tracking equipment. It’s really important 24 hours we have now,” Gunner said.

Greater Katherine and Robinson River were put into a three-day lock when the first cases were announced Monday.

This was later extended to seven days, with a territorial order to wear face masks in most public areas.

Across the NT, 96 percent of people over 16 have had their first vaccine dose and 83 percent are fully vaccinated, according to recent statistics from NT Health, which have been criticized for being swollen at about 10 percent.

In remote communities, 77 percent of people over the age of 16 had their first sting and 62 percent are double-dosed.

In Robinson River, 89 percent of residents received their first dose and 79 percent received two stings.

Up-to-date vaccination statistics for Katherine River have been requested by the NT government.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Greg Hunt extended a biosecurity zone in Robinson River and surrounding homelands until Nov. 22.

Under federal law, it is illegal for people to enter or leave the area.

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