Welcome back: NT reopens its borders to most of Australia
THE Northern Territory will trepidatiously roll out the welcome mat to interstate arrivals today as borders finally reopen, though travellers from the coronavirus hot spots of Victoria and greater metropolitan Sydney remain locked out.
From 12.01am today, after four months of hard line border controls, interstate arrivals from non-hotspot areas will be free to go where they like in the NT.
This has sparked a rapid fattening of interstate flight routes to the Top End with nine flights scheduled to land in Darwin today, including one direct from Melbourne.
Brisbane-based airline Virgin Australia confirmed its Brisbane to Darwin flight this afternoon is completely sold out.
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Early birds who have been in self-isolation before free border access began today have also been unshackled, with their quarantine stints officially ending as long as they are not from hot spots areas and are feeling well.
Anyone who has been in Victoria or greater metropolitan Sydney must complete the full 14 day quarantine period.
Compliance officers will monitor those currently in self-quarantine, including travellers that may have arrived in Darwin from Sydney yesterday.
Those still bold enough to come to the NT from banned areas will be thrown into the Howard Springs facility in Darwin or the Ross Facility in Alice Springs for two weeks at their own expense.
The relaxed rules come amid an unabated spread of coronavirus in Victoria and a growing cluster in New South Wales.
A total of 317 new cases were recorded in Victoria yesterday, the highest daily total recorded in Australia since the pandemic began. Two men in their 80s also died, bringing the COVID-19 death toll in the state to 29.
There has also been an outbreak among Royal Melbourne Hospital staff, with 12 people testing positive for coronavirus.
New South Wales recorded 10 new cases, three of those linked to the southwest Sydney Crossroads Hotel cluster.
That coronavirus cluster has now grown to 40 cases but the state's Health Minister has insisted NSW does not need to go into lockdown.
But Chief Minister Michael Gunner says the NT can open its borders safely despite the worrying developments down south, because cops will remain at Territory entry points indefinitely and travellers from hot spots will be forced into supervised mandatory quarantine.
"We've all got a big job to do and we can't slack off," he said.
"I'm asking you to keep digging deep, we have to stay the best and for many of us that means getting back in the habit. We aren't the best by luck, we're the best because of you. Get back in the habit of keeping your distance, not shaking hands, good hygiene, staying home if you're sick and getting tested.
Aboriginal health and community bodies don't hold this view and are increasingly apprehensive about exposing the NT to the unseen dangers of interstate travels, particularly on the Territory's vulnerable First Nations community.
Originally published as Welcome back: NT reopens its borders to most of Australia