Greater Darwin and Katherine have gone into a three-day lockdown after a single asymptomatic Covid-19 case arrived in the Top End.
Announcing the lockdown on Monday, the Northern Territory chief minister, Michael Gunner, expressed concern for the territory’s “vulnerable populations” and said authorities were “assuming the worst” after detecting the case in a man who had returned from overseas.
It was not immediately clear how the man, in his 30s, contracted the virus or what variant he had.
Gunner said the man had been in hotel quarantine in Sydney and tested negative on 10 August. He left the Sydney hotel on 12 August and flew to Darwin via Canberra airport.
After arriving in Darwin, the man stayed at a CBD hotel – the Hilton on Mitchell Street. He took a taxi to the hotel and an Uber back to the airport on 13 August to collect a hire car.
On Sunday, the man attended the Royal Darwin Hospital for a Covid test – a requirement in the Northern Territory for anyone who has been through hotel quarantine and subsequently arrived in the NT.
He then drove to Katherine, met a friend and went to Woolworths.
The lockdown, which came into effect at midday on Monday, applies to the Darwin, Palmerston and Katherine local government areas and the Darwin rural area.
“Like last time we’ve made the decision to lock down fast, we do not yet know the variant,” Gunner said.
“Critically, we do not know the source of the infection. We do not know if he got it in quarantine. There is a very real risk [the man’s movements] includes contact with our vulnerable populations.
“When we don’t know everything, we have to start by assuming the worst. It is to buy time until we know more.”
The territory’s chief health officer, Hugh Heggie, said public health officers were assuming the man had the Delta variant of the virus.
“Hopefully this will be a short, sharp lockdown,” Heggie said.
Territory authorities have also sought to restrict people from any non-essential shopping. Hardware stores will only be open for click-and-collect purchases and not “for the purposes of entering the store and browsing”.