Northern Territory COVID lockdown ends
The Northern Territory's COVID-19 lockdowns have ended, but residents will have to wear masks and socially distance in public for seven more days.
Greater Darwin was locked down on Sunday and Alice Springs on Wednesday after an outbreak of the Delta variant at a central Australian mine.
The stay-home orders ended at 1pm on Friday for both jurisdictions.
"It is over. I know it's been a bit of a wild ride but we are really happy with what's come through overnight," Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters.
"I don't think we can underestimate how close the Territory came to the edge of the cliff this week."
Mt Gunner said authorities were faced with a "nightmare scenario" as the pandemic came perilously close to the NT's vulnerable Aboriginal communities.
"There were times over the weekend when we thought that might become real," he said, referring to an outbreak in Alice Springs town camps or among Darwin's many so-called long grassers.
"We knew COVID was in our community but we didn't know how bad it was or how far it had spread."
"Inaction could have been devastating."
Mr Gunner said the NT didn't have the "luxury" of waiting and authorities had gone hard and fast and "trapped the virus".
"The virus was here but it did not spread and now we are safe again," he said.
Under the new health directions, there will be no restrictions on people leaving home or travel restrictions in and out of lockdown areas.
But people will be required to wear masks in public if they can't socially distance 1.5 metres from others until July 9.
Patrons will be required to be seated at hospitality venues and gatherings at private residences will be limited to 10 visitors.
Indoor exercise venues and markets have been identified as the highest-risk sites and will need to remain closed for another seven days.
Schools, vacation care and childcare centres will reopen
Additionally, anyone who enters the NT after leaving a non-territory quarantine facility must get a COVID test within three days.
The crisis started on Saturday when a young Victorian mine worker, who travelled to Newmont's Granites Mine about 540km northwest of Alice Springs via a Brisbane quarantine hotel, tested positive for the virus.
More than 700 workers were immediately ordered to isolate as authorities scrambled to track about 800 more who had flown to their homes around Australia after the infected miner arrived on June 18.
It's understood 18 cases were linked to the outbreak as authorities shut down exposure sites and isolated close contacts.
Plans to lift the lockdowns in Darwin on Friday and Alice Springs on Saturday were thrown into jeopardy on Thursday after it was revealed another infected miner allegedly breached his isolation order and lied to authorities.
The man in his 50s was moved to the National Centre for Resilience at Howard Springs, near Darwin, on Sunday after reporting he had spent 36 hours in the community.
But he allegedly lied to health workers about his movements after he was ordered to stay home and wait to be moved to Howard Springs.
A furious Mr Gunner on Thursday revealed the man had allegedly breached the health direction and visited a Darwin supermarket to buy cigarettes on Sunday before entering quarantine.
That venue immediately became a public exposure site on Thursday as health workers raced to contact trace customers and workers for COVID testing.
They identified 49 casual contacts overnight, tested and isolated them with all results coming back negative on Friday.
The Top End wastewater results were also negative, with a jubilant Mr Gunner saying it had given health officials the confidence to end the lockdown.
"You can head out for a beer and a meal, see loved ones, all the things that feel really special to us," he said.
"The Territory this weekend is going to feel extra, extra special. Enjoy it."
© AAP 2021