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COVID updates: 5yo twin girls among latest positive NT cases as mask mandate introduced for all Territorians — as it happened

ABC News Channel live stream

Northern Territory authorities are in a "desperate fight to identify new cases" as the Katherine cluster grows to 11.

Here is a summary of Tuesday's key events:

  • South Australia will mandate all staff and volunteers in schools and childhood facilities must have at least one vaccine by December 10
  • The Northern Territory recorded nine new COVID-19 cases, including the sister of a federal senator
  • Victoria's new COVID-19 infections continue to fall, with 797 recorded in the previous 24 hours
  • Elated families reunited across Queensland's airports as COVID-19 restrictions eased across the state

Catch up on all of Tuesday's news and updates on our blog.

Key events

Live updates

By Michael Doyle

That's all for the blog today

We have been given our cue to close this afternoon. 

Another day full of COVID-19 news and updates. 

Thank-you to everyone who joined us throughout the day.

Until next time, stay safe and be well.

By Michael Doyle

NSW Liberals concerned over proposed COVID powers

The NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard wants to extend the state government's extraordinary Covid powers until the next state election.

But some within his own party are concerned.

Mr Hazzard was set to introduce a bill into parliament today which would extend the powers granted under the Public Health Act until March 2023.

The extraordinary powers came into effect at the beginning of the pandemic last year and gave the Health Minister the ability to quickly enact public health orders which include limiting people's movements, mandating masks and allowing police to enforce the rules.

These powers under the legislation must be repealed by March next year.

When Mr Hazzard took a plan to the Liberal party room to keep them in place, it is understood some MPs were concerned, and now there are negotiations over the proposal.

Reporting by NSW State Political Reporter Ashleigh Raper

By Michael Doyle

Joyous families reunite at airports as COVID-19 border rules ease in Queensland

Elated families have reunited across Queensland's airports as COVID-19 restrictions ease in the state, but others waiting to drive across the border are still locked out and say they are at the "end of their tether".

People from interstate COVID-19 hotspots can now enter Queensland if they are double vaccinated, can provide a negative COVID result in the past 72 hours, apply for a border pass and home quarantine at an address no further than two hours from the airport they landed at.

Gold Coast resident Jacky Dennie was waiting at Brisbane Airport for her husband of 14 years.

He has been living in an Airbnb in Sydney for five months after getting caught up in local lockdowns.

Ms Dennie said it was the longest the couple had been apart.

"I am happy to have him home and it's my birthday tomorrow … so this is the best present I've ever asked for," she said.

Reporting by Nibir Khan

By Michael Doyle

Ernie Dingo joins COVID vaccination campaign in bid to boost rates in WA Indigenous communities

TV personality Ernie Dingo will drive from Perth to the Pilbara this week as part of a federal government campaign to boost vaccination rates among Indigenous communities in remote parts of Western Australia.

Mr Dingo is set to leave Perth on Wednesday and drive with a TV crew to communities in the Pilbara, where Indigenous vaccination rates are among the worst in the country.

During the campaign, he will meet elders and engage in traditional yarning circles to break down mistrust and vaccine hesitancy.

In the Pilbara, 19 per cent of the Indigenous population aged 16 and over have received their second vaccine dose, according to Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.

Read more here. 

By Michael Doyle

A question on the Katherine cluster in the NT

Firstly, my heart goes out to all Territorians affected by this new surge in cases. I was wondering whether there was information on the vaccination status of the 9 new cases?


Hello blog friend.

I have not seen that information today. 

By Michael Doyle

Essendon chief executive tests positive for COVID-19

The chief executive of AFL club Essendon has tested positive to coronavirus.

The Bombers say Xavier Campbell developed mild symptoms on Monday but has not been at the club since last week.

No players have been affected and Campbell and his family are now isolating.

By Michael Doyle

No cases at ACT aged care facility

There have been no new COVID-19 cases recorded today at St Andrews Village in Hughes.

The aged care facility went into lockdown yesterday after five cases were confirmed among residents and staff.

The ACT has reported 12 new Covid cases today, with four people in hospital… one in intensive care.

Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman says it's pleasing to see such high levels of vaccination in aged care facilities.

"I think this is one of the things we need to get used to as part of COVID normal. So any infectious disease in an aged care facility is a concern, but it's reassuring that there has been limited spread so far," she said.

By Michael Doyle

Victorian Sports Minister confused by Kyrgios logic over Australian Open comments

Victoria's Sports Minister, Martin Pakula, says he is confused by Nick Kyrgios's comments the the Australian Open should not go ahead, or if it does, not block unvaccinated players.

He reiterated that unvaccinated players would be banned from the Australian Open along with unvaccinated fans and staff.

"I really like Nick Kyrgios and I cheer for him every time he plays and I certainly don't want to have beef with Nick Kyrgios but I actually couldn't follow the logic of his comments," Mr Pakula said on Tuesday.

"We've had a long lockdown so the Australian Open shouldn't proceed? I'm not sure I follow that.

"I think the opposite applies.

"Melburnians, Victorians and, frankly all Australians, are absolutely gagging for major events."

By Michael Doyle

Nick Kyrgios calls for Australian Open to be cancelled

Tennis maverick Nick Kyrgios has called for the Australian Open to be cancelled out of solidarity for the people of Melbourne, but said that if it goes ahead, unvaccinated players should be welcome at his home grand slam.

The 26-year-old noted on his podcast "No Boundaries" how tournament host Melbourne had endured the longest cumulative lockdown for any city since the outbreak of COVID-19.

"I don't think the Aus Open should go ahead, just for the people in Melbourne — you've got to send a message," Kyrgios said.

"How long did [Melbourne] do in lockdown? 275 days or something?"

Melbourne ended its sixth lockdown last month.

Kyrgios also took aim at authorities who have pledged to block unvaccinated players from the grand slam in January while lending support to world number one and men's champion Novak Djokovic, who has declined to disclose his vaccination status.

"I'm double-vaxxed but I just don't think it's right to force anyone, yet an athlete, [and say] you can't come here and play because you're not vaccinated," said Kyrgios, ranked 90th in the world.

By Michael Doyle

Human Rights Commission welcomes amendments to the Victorian bill

Victoria's Human Rights Commission has welcomed amendments to Victoria's pandemic bill adopted last night.

In a statement, Commissioner Ro Allen said the changes strengthen the bill and its human rights commitments.

By Michael Doyle

Christmas in custody for man charged with breaching SA's border rules

A 27-year-old man will spend Christmas and New Year's Eve behind bars after pleading guilty to an illegal border crossing in South Australia from Victoria.

Kahle Tolson's co-accused, Chloe Mylechrane-Rose Lotus Groves, 18, also pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a direction, but is disputing a charge of using a motor vehicle without consent.

She will reappear in Mount Gambier Magistrates Court next week, but Tolson will remain in custody until January 18.

Read more on this story by clicking this link

By Michael Doyle

Victoria's pandemic laws are expected to be debated until late

Controversial new pandemic laws are expected to be debated late into the night after the Victorian Government struck a deal with crossbench MPs.

Amendments agreed with crossbenchers strengthen human rights protections and increase the threshold for the Premier to declare a pandemic.

Protesters have vowed to remain on the steps of state parliament until the bill is scrapped.

The Australian Industry Group's Victorian head Tim Piper says he still has concerns about the amount of power the laws will hand to politicians and government officers.

"We had a number of concerns in fact we had six that we put to the government and put to the crossbenchers and a number have been dealt with most particularly the one where there was a reduction in the amount of time that the pandemic legislation can be imposed for," he said.

By Michael Doyle

New plan for cleaning and closures of SA school

Schools where there is a COVID-19 case will be cleaned overnight or will be closed for one day for cleaning, the South Australia Education Minister said.

Not the entire school — but only the parts attended by the confirmed case — would need cleaning, John Gardner said.

"We would like to get that school open as long as we have met the requirements of SA Health," he said.

A specialist contact-tracing team will be set up within the Education Department.

"Obviously, the circumstances for contact-tracing that might prevail in the business environment or the office workplace are quite different to a school environment," Mr Gardner said.

Reporting from Rebecca Brice and Eugene Boisvert

By Michael Doyle

NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker says does not want to deal with those who do not follow COVID-19 rules.

Speaking on Tuesday he said overcrowding was a major problem, especially for those who were unvaccinated.

"If you are a nonconformist, if you are a non-believer, it's time to change the direction of your sails because it is here and we've taken the immediate steps to lockdown Katherine and Robinson River but we have to be prepared that other communities may follow," he said.

He also urged people not to protest unlawfully.

"Please do not be a distraction to my people," he said.

"You are going to place the lives of vulnerable Territorians at risk.

"So just take some time, be more community minded, hold your peace until we get out of the mask mandates and the lockdowns and then resume your activities lawfully.

"I can't be bothered dealing with your rubbish in the interim."

By Michael Doyle

Hello everyone

Hello friends,

Michael "Mick" Doyle taking over the blog. 

Plenty to get into, so let's go. 

By Peta Fuller

That's it from me

You've got the wonderful Mick Doyle taking over for the afternoon.

Thanks for the comments and questions today, I'll see you next time.

By Peta Fuller

NT: 'There's a missing link'

The Chief Minister says the current cases were found because they came forward for testing, but they still haven't found the link between them and a source case.

He said there's a gap between November 4 and November 13 (the first cluster that triggered a lockdown and the current cases) that they need to try to explain.

"One reason we have the mask mandate in place.... is potential movement since November 4, so the fact there was some movement prior to the lockdown is obviously a concern but the potential of seeding between November 4 and November 13 is probably a greater concern."

By Michael Doyle

SA: Some people will be excluded from the school vaccine mandate

The mandate won't include:

  • people with medical exemptions,
  • students,
  • parents and carers who are dropping off or picking up children, and
  • incidental visitors to the school, such as delivery drivers and urgent maintenance workers.

The South Australian government says masks will continue to be optional for adults and secondary students in school settings.

If circumstances change, the government has left it open to reintroduce a mask mandate at the recommendation of SA Health authorities.

By Peta Fuller

NT: Chief Minister says no-one has been identified as the 'source case' yet

That's despite Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy saying earlier that her sister was the source of the Robinson River infection.

By Peta Fuller

NT: 'We are in a desperate fight'

The Territory's Deputy Chief Health Officer Charles Pain says they're desperately trying to identify new cases and the territory was "clearly in a very serious situation".

In total there are 11 cases in the second cluster, nine of those from overnight.

He said there is "significant spread in two households"

"We are in a desperate race to track this down and identify those further cases," he said.

There were no new cases reported in the remote community in Robinson River.

But that area does have a good vaccination rate: 87 per cent have their first dose and 77 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said: "We still have time for people to be vaccinated before COVID becomes a reality in your community." 

"As the CHO said yesterday and as I have said before, you only have two choices - catch COVID vaxxed or catch COVID unvaxxed. Please, please, get the vax."

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