Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles has warned the NT’s COVID cases are expected to peak next month as the highly contagious Omicron BA.2 subvariant spreads.
- The NT has recorded 526 new coronavirus cases, and the death of a man in his 50s
- Proof of vaccination will no longer be required to attend sporting venues under new rules announced today
- But patrons must show their vaccine pass if they want to purchase alcohol
Ms Fyles said there had been 15 confirmed BA.2 cases recorded in the NT, but that figure could be higher as most cases were being detected using rapid antigen tests which could not distinguish between variants.
“[Health authorities] think in the next three to four weeks, from this BA.2 variant, we’ll see that peak [in cases],” Ms Fyles said.
“We’ve been sitting at that daily average of around 300-350 [cases] … yesterday’s case numbers were [around] 500.”
The Northern Territory recorded 526 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, NT Health said in a statement this afternoon.
Of those, 468 were detected using RATs.
It is the second time the NT has recorded more than 500 cases since March 4, after 503 cases were reported yesterday.
NT Health also reported the death of a man in his 50s, who had underlying health conditions and died with coronavirus at Royal Darwin Hospital,
The man, who was from a remote community in East Arnhem, died on March 28.
There are now 22 coronavirus patients in hospital, with two requiring oxygen, and 2,529 active coronavirus cases Territory-wide, according to NT Health.
Ms Fyles said health authorities were monitoring the situation in some eastern states, including NSW, which recorded more than 20,000 COVID cases in the past 24 hours.
“We saw an increase yesterday here in the territory, we’re not seeing a corresponding hospitalisation rise,” she said.
“We’re seeing with the BA.2 variant that it’s more transmissible, but we’re not seeing a severity of illness increase.”
Vaccination requirements eased
Despite the expected peak in COVID cases, the NT government has moved to ease vaccination requirements for people entering sporting venues and some public events.
The changes, which come into effect today, mean proof of vaccination is no longer needed to attend a sporting venue, except when purchasing alcohol.
Proof of vaccination is also not required at public events of more than 500 people in urban areas and events of more than 100 people in regional areas.
“These changes were implemented as a priority to provide clarification about access to sporting venues and ensure the community continues to engage in sport and exercise,” an NT government spokesperson said in a statement.
“The CHO continues to assess the use of the Vaccine Pass at other venues where it is currently in place, such as bars, pubs, nightclubs, restaurants, casinos, cinemas and theatres.”
CHO approval is no longer required to host public events.
However, a COVID safety plan and safety supervisor are still required for events of more than 1,000 people in major towns, and public events of more than 500 people outside major centres.
Hospitality NT CEO Alex Bruce described the changes as “outrageous” and called on the government to scrap the vaccine pass for other hospitality venues.
“Why is there more risk in buying a beer at the footy than a pie?”
Mr Bruce said he had met the Health Minister yesterday and demanded a timeframe for when the measures would be lifted for hospitality venues.
“[Unvaccinated people] can now go and be in a crowd of 15,000 people watching the footy but cannot come into a licensed café that seats 30 people,” he said.
“People are over it, customers are over it.”
Ms Fyles said health authorities hoped to gradually “transition from a pandemic to an endemic” but would not confirm if the vaccine pass would be scrapped entirely.
“As we flagged in May, we’d like to step out of the public health emergency because that’s quite broad and has other powers that can be put in place,” she said.
“That would be at some point in the future…all of those [CHO] directions would go but we know that there’ll be some directions well into the future to keep us safe.”