Tanami COVID outbreak sparks NT lockdown

PARTS of the Northern Territory are in lockdown for 48 hours after a mine worker from Newmont’s Tanami operations tested positive for COVID-19.
Tanami COVID outbreak sparks NT lockdown Tanami COVID outbreak sparks NT lockdown Tanami COVID outbreak sparks NT lockdown Tanami COVID outbreak sparks NT lockdown Tanami COVID outbreak sparks NT lockdown

Newmont's Tanami operations in the Northern Territory

The mine worker, from Victoria, is suspected to have been infected with the Delta variant of the virus at the Airport Novotel Langley quarantine hotel in Brisbane before flying to Tanami on a charter flight on June 18.

He was potentially infectious from June 18-25.

Nine hundred people left the mine during the suspected infectious period and 244 were still in the NT as of Saturday.

All mine workers who travelled to Alice Springs have now been contacted and are isolating. From the 211 who flew to Darwin 196 have been contacted and are in isolation.

"Due to the nature of the positive case being located at a fly-in, fly-out mine site, there are a large number of close contacts that have been identified and a major contact tracing mission is underway," NT chief health officer Dr Hugh Heggie said.

A further five workers linked the case tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday.

One case was identified in New South Wales. Two positive cases are among the cohort currently isolating at the mine in the Tanami but are being evacuated to the Centre for National Resilience. A fourth case had travelled to Darwin, while the fifth case was identified in Queensland.

The Queensland case was a woman who had returned from working at the mine, transited through Brisbane Airport on Friday night and travelled to the Sunshine Coast.

The mine worker was infectious in the community for around a day.

WA Health confirmed there were three flights to Perth between June 18 and 25, carrying 252 workers from the mine site.

Chief health officer Dr Andy Robertson said the most concern was for the 177 workers who arrived on flights on June 22 and June 25.

They have been asked to immediately quarantine for 14 days and get tested for COVID-19.

"There is currently no risk to the broader community as we have not identified any cases of COVID-19 that have returned from the mine site," Robertson said.

"Through quarantining and testing of those who have returned from the mine site we are minimising any potential risk.

"This is an evolving situation and WA Health continues to work with NT Health and health departments in other jurisdictions."

There are reportedly 29 workers from the mine in South Australia in isolation.

According to the Minerals Council of Australia, Newmont had temporarily suspended Tanami, which was Australia's fourth-largest gold mine last year with production of 495,000 ounces.

"Strict COVID-19 protection and containment protocols by the Australian minerals industry have ensured a seamless and rapid response to keep the community safe following the detection of a single positive case of the COVID-19 virus at Newmont Australia's Tanami site in the Northern Territory," CEO Tania Constable said.

"Strong COVID-19 protocols put in place last year across Australia's mining industry and scenario planning have  contributed to a quick and decisive response to this isolated incident.

"Mining sites are effective quarantine facilities, shown by the use of the Howard Springs facility in the NT which is a former resource industry camp and the model for future Commonwealth quarantine facilities."

In response to the worsening situation, WA has upgraded its border controls, moving the NT, Queensland and the ACT to "low risk", which means arrivals will need to quarantine for 14 days.

SA has closed its borders to travellers from the NT, ACT, NSW, Queensland, WA and to travellers who have been at a relevant tier one or tier two exposure site in Victoria.

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