A man who returned to Australia from Pakistan has become the Northern Territory’s first COVID-19 case in almost three months, with concerns he may have contracted the virus during a brief stay in one of Melbourne’s hot spots.
The Darwin local in his 30s arrived in Australia last month and spent two weeks in quarantine in Melbourne before flying to the NT on Monday via Brisbane.
Before travelling to Darwin, he stayed with family in one of the virus hot spots in Melbourne for a couple of days.
Upon his return, he started to feel unwell and was tested for coronavirus, with the positive result confirmed on Wednesday night.
He was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital and is in isolation but is experiencing only mild symptoms.
“This individual has followed all the precautions and we wish them all the best,” NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles said.
“I want to reassure the community there has been minimal contact with the broader community.
“This is not a case of community transmission.”
However, passengers on Qantas flight QF836 from Brisbane to Darwin on Monday are being traced.
Queensland authorities will check on people who left the flight in Brisbane while Victorian health officials will also investigate the case to try to determine the source of the man’s infection.
It’s unclear whether he contracted the disease before arriving in Australia, or while staying with family in Melbourne.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he had no information about the Darwin case but it was a reminder to people in virus hot spots that they should not leave, given the lockdown measures in place.
“Obviously, if someone’s travelled prior to that, that’s not against the law,” Professor Sutton said.
“But we’ve got strong recommendations and I think that other jurisdictions have been really clear that non-essential travel outside of Victoria is not recommended.”
The NT recorded its last coronavirus case on April 6 and had gone 42 days without an active infection.
NT Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie said the new case was a warning to all Territorians that COVID-19 had not gone away.
“What’s important is that everything that we have put in place seems to have worked and Territorians need to be assured that there’s no risk to the community,” he said.
“In this case, the traveller did have some symptoms and he did contact the team to have a test.
“He did all the right things.”
Ms Fyles said the new case would not change the NT’s decision to relax border restrictions on July 17, when only travellers from hot spots would be required to quarantine.
She said closing the borders completely to all Victorians would be a “very simplistic response”.
The minister said it was understandable that Territorians would be anxious and alarmed by the new infection.
“But we have to understand that we’re stepping forward into what is our new normal,” she said.