Coronavirus restrictions easing in NT did not lead to spike in hospitalisations


A senior Northern Territory doctor says it was a “relief” there was not a rise in alcohol-related presentations to the emergency department at Royal Darwin Hospital as coronavirus restrictions eased further over the weekend.

Under the second phase of the NT’s three-stage lifting of coronavirus restrictions, which came into effect on May 15, people can visit pubs and clubs for up to two hours and have a drink with a meal.

Dr Charles Payne, the executive director of Medical Services at the Top End Health Service, said hospital staff were left happily surprised by their weekend workload.

“I hope that means people behaved themselves over the weekend, that was very pleasing and a great relief for us,” Dr Payne said.

The Royal Darwin Hospital has been seeing an increase in workload at the emergency department but Dr Payne said that was because people were once again feeling it was safe to head to hospital for non-coronavirus-related health matters and he expected that trend to continue.

“Over the next few weeks, I would expect we would be back to our normal situation with numbers, which is not desirable because we are a hospital that regularly operates at or above capacity,” Dr Payne said.

But Dr Payne said the hospital would still remain in a state of readiness for an outbreak of COVID-19 in the NT.

“We have to be very careful of a resurgence of coronavirus around Australia,” Dr Payne said.

“We can’t let our guard down, in case there is a resurgence.”

NT Police say some venues could improve physical distancing.(ABC News)

Patrons’ behaviour can improve: Police

NT Police said they had breath-tested more than 700 drivers and handed 13 people drink and drug-driving notices over the weekend.

Commander David Proctor told the ABC it was a “pretty good” outcome.

“I think that’s a pretty good response when we think [that] everyone has been waiting for this moment for the last six weeks to have a bit of freedom,” he said.

Police said no Darwin venues had been fined for breaching coronavirus restrictions but at least two had been given warnings.

“We had a couple of incidents or a couple of situations at a couple of licensed premises where I would say patrons could have been better behaved,” Commander Proctor said.

The Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner holds a beer at a pub.
The NT Government is allowing Territorians to go to pubs for a meal and a drink for up to two hours.(ABC News)

Preparations begin for further easing

Health Minister Natasha Fyles said the NT Government was thankful to both Territorians and local businesses who had followed restrictions.

“Over the weekend, we saw Territory businesses put in the hygiene practices to keep people safe,” she said.

“We need to acknowledge both Territorians and those business owners who have done the right thing.”

Ms Fyles has revealed preparations for the region’s third stage of restrictions lifting are underway, just days after hundreds of businesses including gyms and cafes were reopened.

On June 5, all remaining NT businesses will be allowed to reopen, including cinemas and tattoo parlours, provided they have an approved COVID-19 safety plan in place.

Ms Fyles said more than 6,000 Territorians have now been tested for the coronavirus.

“Last week, we saw the second-highest week of testing for the coronavirus in the Northern Territory,” she said.

Ms Fyles said there was little chance restrictions would be lifted before June 5.

“I think we need to be realistic; there are many health professionals that are very anxious,” she said.



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