NT delays stage three of national plan

By Aaron Bunch
Fully vaccinated travellers from hotspots will isolate at home instead of NT quarantine in December. (AAP)

The Northern Territory has delayed joining the national plan to ease border and travel restrictions as the COVID-19 vaccination rollout lags in remote areas.

The territory had hoped to introduce sweeping stage three changes to its COVID-19 management plan on November 3.

These included new border, quarantine and lockdown rules that would relax requirements for fully vaccinated people.

But the slow uptake of the vaccine in some remote areas means the benchmarked 80 per cent double dose target won't be met in time.

That means the "50-day race to freedom" announced by Chief Minister Michael Gunner on September 15 is likely to take more than 80 days.

When complete, stage three of the national plan will be "gradually" implemented.

"We are going to do this carefully. We are going to do this in accordance with the health advice," Mr Gunner told reporters on Wednesday.

The first change, which is expected in early December, will be to the quarantine system.

Fully vaccinated travellers from hotspots are set to be able to isolate at home for 14 days, instead of quarantining at the Howard Springs or Alice Springs facilities.

The change is expected to make it easier for people to travel to and from the NT ahead of Christmas.

"It is a modest first step," Mr Gunner said.

Other changes, such as reducing the 14-day home quarantine period for vaccinated people, or allowing vaccinated people to leave home quarantine as soon as they have returned a negative test result, will have to wait until 2022.

Mr Gunner said there would be no rule changes for unvaccinated people from hotspots outside the territory.

He also urged unvaccinated people to get the jab immediately.

"Once the Delta strain is in, it is in, we can't get rid of it," he said.

The delay comes as the vaccine rollout lags in 33 of the 51 communities that report results to the NT government.

The is no data for another 33 where the commonwealth is managing the vaccine rollout.

Some, like Alpurrurulam in the Barkly region and Ikuntji in Central Australia, have first-dose rates below 15 per cent.

Many others have double-dose rates well below 40 per cent.

Vaccine hesitancy linked to the misinformation about its safety has been blamed for the slow uptake.


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