Brazil asks women to delay pregnancy over new coronavirus variant fears

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sao Carlos
A medical worker administers medication to an intubated coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient at a UPA (Emergency Service Unit) in Sao Carlos, Brazil April 16, 2021. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

April 16, 2021

By Eduardo Simões

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil asked women on Friday to delay getting pregnant until the worst of the pandemic passes, saying the virus variant that is devastating the South American country appears to affect expectant mothers more than earlier versions of the coronavirus.

The recommendation comes as Brazil continues to be one of the global epicenters of the pandemic, with more Brazilians dying of the virus each day than anywhere else in the world.

Hospitals are buckling under the strain and stocks of drugs needed for intubating severely ill patients are running perilously low, with Brazil turning to international partners for help with emergency supplies.

“If it’s possible, delay pregnancy a little until a better moment,” Health Ministry official Raphael Parente said during a news conference on Friday.

He said the recommendation was partly due to the stress on the health system but also due to the more easily transmissible Brazilian variant known as P.1.

“The clinical experience of specialists shows that this new variant acts more aggressively in pregnant women,” Parente said.

Previously, COVID-19 cases during pregnancy were focused on the final trimester and birth, whereas lately there have been more serious cases in the second and occasionally first trimester, he said.

Parente did not give any more details.

The P.1 variant, first discovered in the Amazon city of Manaus, has quickly become dominant in Brazil. It is thought to be a major factor behind a massive second wave of infections that has brought the country’s death toll to over 350,000 – the second highest in the world behind the United States.

Brazil’s outbreak is increasingly affecting younger people, with hospital data showing that in March more than half of all patients in intensive care were aged 40 or younger.

President Jair Bolsonaro has opposed lockdowns and held large events in which he often does not wear a mask. He has only recently embraced vaccines as a possible solution, but the inoculation rollout has been plagued by delays and missed targets for getting people inoculated.

This week, vaccinations were stopped in several cities due to a shortage of vaccine supply, according to local media.

The surge in COID-19 cases has also left hospitals short of sedatives needed for patients who require mechanical ventilation.

An emergency shipment of the drugs arrived in Brazil late on Thursday from China, while donations from Spain are expected to arrive next week.

Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have both sounded the alarm over shortages, with Sao Paulo’s health secretary saying this week that the city’s ability to care for seriously ill COVID-19 patients is on the verge of collapse.

Despite the shortage of drugs and 85% of intensive care beds occupied, Sao Paulo announced on Friday it would begin reopening stores and restaurants, saying the number of new hospitalizations had fallen sufficiently to do so safely.

(Reporting by Eduardo Simoes, writing by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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The Northern Territory survives a year of coronavirus without death or outbreak

Last April, as coronavirus was taking hold in Australia, Northern Territory health authorities issued a stark warning: community spread of the deadly virus would be inevitable in the NT.

But a year to the day since the NT recorded its first case — a 52-year-old tourist who had been overseas before flying from Sydney to Darwin — the pandemic has so far proven that prediction wrong.

The NT is one of the last Australian jurisdictions to have avoided community transmission, and it also boasts the nation’s lowest caseload and no deaths.

(The ACT has recorded one case from an unknown source, but health authorities do not regard this as community transmission.)

The majority of the NT’s 106 cases have been linked to the federal government’s repatriation program. Its locally acquired cases — all linked to interstate travel — can be counted on one hand.

What is behind the NT’s success in its first year battling coronavirus?

Experts say it is a combination of effective public health controls and the territory’s unique demography — and a healthy dose of luck.

Part science, part environment, part luck

Hassan Vally, an epidemiologist with La Trobe University, said the NT government’s decision to act swiftly and decisively throughout the pandemic — including by closing the border for several months — effectively stamped out risk.

He said several factors unique to the NT had also played out in its favour, including its small population, low population density, and reduced air travel compared to major cities.

On top of that, he added, was a strong element of chance.

“I think this is one of those situations where chance plays a huge role, and sometimes we underestimate the role of chance,” he said.

“When you have low transmission, which we’ve sort of had in Australia in general, randomness and random effects and chance play an even greater role.”

Hugh Heggie, the NT’s Chief Health Officer, agrees luck has played a role — including when the 52-year-old tourist visited a busy Darwin hotel and grocery store before testing positive.

“We do also fortuitously have an outdoor lifestyle, unlike [where the virus originated] in China, where there’s very dense living in high-rise apartments.”

Dr Hugh Heggie is the NT’s Chief Health Officer.(

ABC News: Felicity James


The ‘gold standard’ quarantine facility

Asked what he thought the year’s major risks had been, Dr Heggie pointed to the efforts to repatriate Australians from the coronavirus-stricken city of Wuhan and the Diamond Princess cruise ship via Darwin.

But he said two early choices — the decision to quarantine those people at a former workers camp south of the city, and to engage specialist health teams — helped keep those risks at bay.

Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett agreed.

She said the Howard Springs facility, which has been deemed the ‘gold standard’ of quarantine, is a key part of why the NT dodged hotel quarantine-related outbreaks that prompted lockdowns and restrictions in other states.

The same factors allowed the NT to play a leading role in the ongoing effort to repatriate stranded Australians on federal government-organised flights.

“So less pressure, better natural facilities available that could be adapted for quarantine, and stopping that spread into the community via the quarantine workers or people being released too soon,” she said.

“All those things have been kept with a really tight lid on, and that’s what’s protected the community from these wider spread transmission events.”

A worker at the Howard Springs quarantine centre dons personal protective equipment.
Workers at the facility follow strict infection control protocols.(

AAP: Glenn Campbell


Professor Bennett also agreed the NT had also been lucky, pointing to a surge in quarantine demand in Alice Springs last year that saw hundreds of people arriving from a hotspot overload available facilities.

Outbreak not ruled out

Does the NT’s success so far mean its contact tracing and public health systems lack the experience of other states?

Professor Bennett did not necessarily believe so.

“Sometimes you just don’t know until the system’s tested. But the good news Australia-wide is that our chief health officers are all working together, and so other states are learning from states that have had more community transmission,” she said.

“The other [risk] is, the less exposed people have been to the direct and indirect impacts of COVID, the less front-of-mind it might be for the importance of vaccines.”

NT Deputy Chief Health Officer Di Stephens receives a COVID-19 vaccine from a nurse.
The coronavirus vaccine rollout began in the Northern Territory last week.(

ABC News: Michael Franchi


Dr Heggie said the early stages of the vaccination rollout were progressing as planned.

But he has repeatedly warned about the risk complacency poses to the NT, and said the battle to prevent community transmission is not over yet.

“I can’t say we won’t, because there’s always the possibility of breaches of infection control, and there’s also sometimes breaches of behaviour,” he said.

“We’ve got a way to go, for most of this year, to continue to protect us.”

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Victoria will soon consider all of Australia a ‘green zone’ after Brisbane, Byron Bay coronavirus risk downgraded

Victoria will downgrade the Brisbane, Gladstone and Byron Bay areas from “orange” to “green” zones from midnight.

The change means people travelling from those areas to Victoria will no longer need to quarantine and get tested upon arriving in the state.

Once that kicks in, every part of Australia and New Zealand will be considered a “green zone” under Victoria’s travel permit system.

Everyone entering Victoria needs to apply for a travel permit, which classifies areas as red, orange or green zones based on their coronavirus risk.

Green zone permit holders are free to enter the state with no other restrictions.

People coming from orange zones had to get tested and self-isolate until they got a negative test result.

Red zone permit holders needed to self-isolate for a full two weeks, even if they tested negative for the virus during that period.

But under the rules, people can only enter Victoria from red zones if they are a resident, have an exemption or qualify for a worker or transit permit.

It is more relaxed than the red zone rules that were in place late last year, which blocked Victorians from entering their own state.

Victoria designated the Greater Brisbane area a red zone late last month, after the Queensland government announced a snap lockdown in response to COVID cases detected in the community.

The Gladstone area, on the coast about 500 kilometres north of Brisbane, and the Byron Bay region in northern New South Wales, were designated orange zones.

On April 1 Brisbane’s red zone classification was downgraded to orange.

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Death of NSW woman who suffered blood clotting ‘likely’ linked to AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

The TGA says the death of the 48-year-old who developed blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca shot “is likely to be linked to vaccination”.

The fatal blood clotting suffered by a woman in NSW is “likely” linked to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine she received, Australia’s medical regulator has announced. 

The revelation came in a statement late on Friday night from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

The TGA’s Vaccine Safety Investigation Group (VSIG) met on Friday and concluded the blood clotting in the 48-year-old woman’s arteries and veins, as well as her low platelet count, was “likely to be linked to vaccination”.

She was vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot on 8 April and admitted to hospital four days later, where she died.

The review of the woman’s death was complicated by her underlying medical conditions, including diabetes, and “some atypical features”, the TGA’s statement said.

It said “anti-PFA antibodies” – which activate platelets, and have been found in almost all other internationally reported blood clot cases – were also absent. 

“Despite the atypical clinical features and the negative antibody test, in the absence of an alternative cause for the clinical syndrome, [VSIG] believed that a causative link to vaccination should be assumed at this time,” the statement said. 

This is the third report of a case of the rare blood clotting disorder linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia and the first death. The other two cases are being treated in hospital and have been recovering well.

Last Thursday, adults in Australians under the age of 50 were warned off receiving the AstraZeneca shot, with Pfizer becoming the preferred vaccine for that demographic. 

The TGA said the woman who died was vaccinated before authorities made the decision later that day, it said in its Friday statement.

Laboratory tests from the woman are still pending and an autopsy will be conducted next week. 

“Given this is an atypical presentation, should the test results and autopsy provide an alternative causation, VSIG would review their decision,” the TGA said.

TGA chief John Skerritt said this week that blood clotting associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine was so rare that “your chances of winning the lotto are much higher”, with the regulator’s Friday statement saying the three cases in Australia so far equated to a frequency of one in 295,000.

Earlier on Friday, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly urged people to continue to get vaccinated, saying the benefits far outweighed any harm.

He said he had read one unpublished overseas study that suggested COVID-19 brought a risk of blood clotting itself.

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Coronavirus: Canada sets new single-day record with 9,561 COVID-19 infections

Canada reported 9,561 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, setting a new record for daily cases since the start of the pandemic.

The previous daily record was set less than a week ago on April 9, when the country logged a total of 9,244 new cases, according to data collected by

The new record marks a grim milestone as hospitalizations increase across the country, and vaccine rollouts stall.

Ontario set its own record for daily infections on Thursday, reporting 4,736 new cases. The province currently has 1,932 people in hospital with COVID-19 and 659 in intensive care — record highs as well.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health, said during a press briefing that the situation in the province is “dire.”

“At some of the previous press conferences I have referred to the situation as worrisome, and even scary. What is truly scary is that when I used those words before, our rates and our trends were nowhere near where we find ourselves today,” Yaffe said.

The situation is also growing more concerning in Quebec where health officials reported 1,513 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 15 additional deaths due to the pandemic.

New projections released by the province’s public health institute suggest that hospitals in some regions outside the Montreal area could reach their designated capacity of COVID-19 patients within three weeks if current trends don’t change.

Alberta, which has Canada’s highest seven-day rate of cases, recorded 1,646 new infections on Thursday, including 1,020 variants of concern.

B.C. reached a new record for hospitalizations at 409 and had 1,205 new cases while Manitoba confirmed its first case of the P.1 variant first found in Brazil.

The increasing numbers come a few weeks into what the federal government has billed as the ramp-up phase of Canada’s mass vaccination effort.

However, the rollout is still being plagued by delays in Moderna shipments and lingering uncertainty about when and how many doses of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s shots will land.

The supply concerns have caused some vaccinations sites to pause bookings and even cancel appointments in certain regions.

Despite the delays, the federal government expects to have received more than 44 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by June, enough that every eligible person should be able to receive their first shot by Canada Day.

According to’s vaccine tracker, Canada has administered a total of 9,200,859 doses as of Thursday evening, with nearly 22 per cent of the population having received at least one dose.

With files from’s Rachel Aiello and The Canadian Press

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Being vaccinated against coronavirus doesn’t make you more likely to catch the South African variant

CoronaCheck is RMIT ABC Fact Check’s weekly email newsletter dedicated to fighting the misinformation infodemic surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

You can read the latest edition below and subscribe to have the next newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

CoronaCheck #61

In this week’s CoronaCheck, we investigate reports that being vaccinated makes you more susceptible to contracting certain COVID-19 strains. Spoiler alert: that’s not correct.

We also look at claims that China’s president “invented” lockdowns, which are supposedly not backed by science. That’s not right, either. Read on to find out why.

No, being vaccinated does not make you more likely to contract COVID-19

News headlines declaring that a South African variant of the novel coronavirus can “break through” the Pfizer vaccine have caused alarm on social media.

Some misleading and unclear headlines and articles have led some people to believe that a study from Israel showed that people vaccinated with the Pfizer jab were more likely to contract the South African variant than those who were unvaccinated.

“The Pfizer vaccine makes you more susceptible to contracting covid than the unvaccinated,” claimed one woman, sharing a Facebook post by federal MP Craig Kelly.

But this is not the case.

The Israel study examined the Pfizer vaccine against the South African variant.(

AP: Ariel Schalit


The study, led by researchers at Tel Aviv University and Clatit, a healthcare provider, found that among people diagnosed with COVID-19, the South African variant was more common among those who had been vaccinated (and for whom the vaccine had not been effective).

As reported by Reuters, the South African variant accounted for around 1 per cent of the COVID-19 cases captured in the study.

Among patients who had been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer jab, however, 5.4 per cent were infected with the South African strain.

“This suggests the vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, compared with the original coronavirus and a variant first identified in Britain that has come to comprise nearly all COVID-19 cases in Israel, the researchers said.”

However, the researchers note in their conclusion that they “can only cautiously speculate” on the vaccine’s effectiveness against the South African strain due to the small sample size of the study (which has not yet been peer reviewed) and the fact that it “was not intended to deduce vaccine effectiveness against either variant”.

“Our results emphasise the importance of tracking viral variants in a rigorous framework and of increasing vaccination, which we conclude is the safest and most effective means of preventing the onwards spread of [the South African strain] and other possible future variants of concern.”

The scientific basis for lockdowns

A former public servant who became a popular anti-lockdown activist and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist on platforms such as Facebook and Telegram has claimed that Chinese President Xi Jinping “invented” lockdowns which are “rejected” by science.

A middle-aged Indian man with white hair dressed in dark suit, white shirt and pink tie looks at camera.
Sanjeev Sabhlok resigned from his Victorian government role last September in protest of the state’s lockdowns.(



Sanjeev Sabhlok says he quit Victoria’s Department of Treasury and Finance last year in protest against “the Police State created by the Daniel Andrews government” and has been banned from LinkedIn and Twitter for spreading misinformation.

He has attracted attention from fringe political groups and myriad conspiracists who engage with encrypted sites such as Telegram and Parler.

Mr Sahblok’s claims about President Xi and the scientific basis for lockdowns have been viewed hundreds of times on his personal Telegram page, but Fact Check found both to be incorrect. 

Did Xi Jinping invent the lockdown?

While the Chinese city of Wuhan was the first to go into lockdown in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, Mr Xi did not invent the practice.

There is a long history of lockdowns being used to manage risk of infectious diseases across the world.

Jinping lab
The bogus claim was that Chinese President Xi Jinping came up with the concept of lockdowns.(

AP Via Xinhua


In Britain, King Charles II imposed a lockdown on people in towns, cities and ports during the great plague of the 1660s. He controlled the movement of villagers and banned public gatherings in his “Rules and Orders” declaration. 

Similarly, schools were closed, restaurants abandoned and public gatherings shunned in Hong Kong when the SARS epidemic ripped through the region in 2003.

“We learnt from the work in Asia at the time of SARS how protective lockdown can be,” said immunology professor Catherine Bennett, of Deakin University.

“This is also why countries in the region did well in the early days of this pandemic as they knew what to do and could put this in place quickly and effectively,” she told CoronaCheck. 

The SARS epidemic prompted neighbouring China to respond with urgency, creating public guidelines and clear control measures for its population. In May, 2003, the entire city of Beijing was locked down and thousands of public areas were closed. 

The scientific evidence for lockdown

Navigli canal with empty streets on either side.
Coronavirus lockdowns in nations like Italy proved to be effective in reducing fatalities.(



A peer-reviewed health policy paper produced by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the US found that COVID-19 lockdowns were effective by suppressing the spread of the virus. 

“Lockdown has a negative and statistically significant coefficient, suggesting that countries that implemented the lockdown have fewer new cases than countries that did not,” the paper concluded. “We can also see that the benefits of lockdown increase exponentially with the passing of time.” 

Meanwhile, the medical journal The Lancet analysed Italy’s lockdown by tracking mobile phone data over 10 weeks in early 2020 in three regions hardest hit by COVID-19.

It found that “greater compliance with the mobility restrictions was associated with a swifter and more marked decrease in SARS-CoV-2 positive tests”. 

Australia’s Burnet Institute and the Institute for Disease Modelling in the United States also developed modelling to assess the impact and risk of relaxing physical distancing policies on COVID-19 resurgence.

Subsequent modelling of Victoria’s lockdown found that easing of government-imposed restrictions on Melbourne in mid-September last year would have posed an extremely high risk of a COVID-19 resurgence. 

Professor Bennett told CoronaCheck most of the evidence for lockdowns was based on the change in transmission rates once lockdowns were introduced. 

Lockdowns, she said, involved keeping people in their homes to decrease the average number of contacts each person had so as to suppress disease transmission and make contact tracing more manageable.

Research into government intervention showed “compelling and repeatable evidence that lockdowns work,” she added. Though a “blunt instrument”, lockdowns slowed transmission and could also be used as “circuit breakers” over short periods of time.

From a US murder trial

A court sketch of a white police office kneeling on a black man, with black witness sitting beside.
Donald Williams was among the prosecution witnesses in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.(

Reuters: Jane Rosenberg


The trial of Derek Chauvin, the US police officer charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, has prompted a number of false and misleading claims.

Fact checkers at the USA Today newspaper found that a viral image purporting to show US President Joe Biden kneeling in front of Mr Floyd’s son to “beg for forgiveness” was miscaptioned: the child pictured is not Mr Floyd’s son but the son of a clothing store owner whose shop was visited by Mr Biden.

PolitiFact, meanwhile, found that Mr Floyd’s brother had not been arrested in North Carolina over the shooting of a couple in a road rage incident.

“A man named Dejywan Floyd was recently charged with murder in a shooting death in North Carolina, but there’s nothing to suggest that he is related to George Floyd,” the fact checkers reported.

The fact checkers also debunked an out-of-context video supposedly showing that Chauvin did not have his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck, as alleged.

“Video of the final seconds in the approximately eight minutes of Floyd’s restraint show Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s shoulder,” PolitiFact said. “The rest of the video shows Chauvin’s knee on or next to his neck.

“Doctors say pressure in that area would cut off the flow of blood and oxygen.”

In other news

Rupert Murdoch holds up a newspaper
Rupert Murdoch inherited The Adelaide News from his father Keith in 1958.(

The National Archives of Australia


Just how wide is Rupert Murdoch’s reach within Australian media?

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s petition to establish a royal commission into media diversity in Australia attracted more than half a million signatures and took aim at Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire Mr Rudd labelled a “cancer on democracy”.

Another ex-prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, also weighed in, branding it “an absolute threat to our democracy” and “the most powerful political actor in Australia”.

Mr Rudd’s petition, with the support of Mr Turnbull, led to a Senate inquiry into Australia’s news media and Mr Murdoch’s role in it.

So, just what is his reach?

In a fact file released this week, Fact Check found that News Corp publications certainly dominate the national print media market, with 2016 figures (the latest available) showing its share of circulation among national and capital city dailies was 65 per cent, and likely similar for regional papers.

A dark-haired woman holds up a newspaper at a hearing room above a monitor with an older man in blue suit.
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke about a News Corp “agenda” against him at a Senate inquiry this week.(

AAP: Mick Tsikas


More recent data (December 2020) shows that newspapers owned by News Corp commanded more than twice the total audience of those owned by Nine Entertainment.

On the internet, however, where far more people get their news, Nine’s traditional mastheads are individually more popular than those of News Corp.

Measured by monthly readers, the combined reach of News Corp’s hard copy and digital newspapers is only around 7 per cent greater than Nine’s, despite owning twice the number of titles.

Among news websites more broadly, News Corp’s ranks second to the ABC for monthly visitors, and its traditional newspaper brands are outperformed by digital-only offerings such as and Daily Mail Australia.

In December 2020, News Corp’s news websites collectively reached 1.2 million fewer readers than those owned by Nine Entertainment.

There is little to suggest that News Corp dominates when it comes to broadcast news audiences.

Its radio investments are comparatively small compared to those in print, for example, in a market where ownership is relatively more diverse.

News Corp’s sole television news outlet, Sky News Australia, attracts a significantly smaller audience than the ABC’s rival 24-hour news channel. And, according to one survey, the number of people who got their news from Sky was roughly a third of those tuning into Channel Seven or Channel Nine.

On social media, however, Sky has an outsized audience.

In the second half of 2020, its Facebook posts were shared more often than any of the 65 accounts analysed by Fact Check, while placed third, behind the Daily Mail.

On YouTube, Sky’s subscriber base far exceeds that of Channel 7 and Channel 9 and in March it had surpassed ABC News, while its videos receive millions more views per month.

Importantly, it is likely that a significant chunk of Sky’s YouTube traffic comes from overseas, given reports that nearly a third of its website traffic comes from outside Australia. 

Edited by Ellen McCutchan with thanks to Emile Pavlich

Got a fact that needs checking? Tweet us @ABCFactCheck or send us an email at

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Queensland’s coronavirus restrictions are set to ease on Thursday. What happens next?

At a press conference on Wednesday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the restrictions would be relaxed from 6:00am, slightly earlier than the initially anticipated time of midday.

So, what does that mean? Here’s a reminder.

The shift back to previous advice means looser rules on wearing masks.

There will be no legal requirement to wear masks indoors — including grocery shopping, on public transport, or in restaurants and pubs when not eating or drinking.

However, Premier Palaszczuk is continuing to encourage people to carry a mask and wear it wherever they cannot socially distance.

Masks will still need to be worn inside airports and on planes — that’s an Australia-wide requirement.

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Scott Morrison announces Howard Springs coronavirus quarantine facility will increase capacity

The Northern Territory’s Howard Springs quarantine facility will soon be responsible for quarantining 15 per cent of all Australians returning on international repatriation flights.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs quarantine facility would expand to accept 2,000 returned Australians a fortnight, up from 850.

Speaking after National Cabinet, Mr Morrison said the Commonwealth had entered into an agreement with the NT government to expand the workers’ camp.

“That will be done over the next few months,” he said.

“That is an important addition to the capacity of those quarantine facilities, to receive those return chartered flights that Australia has been putting in place for many, many months.”

After Mr Morrison’s announcement, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner revealed the management of the facility would undergo a significant change — with the NT Government taking over both the domestic and international quarantine operations.

“The Territory government will assume management facility from the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth will continue to work hand in glove with us,” he said.

Mr Gunner said merging the domestic and international cohorts “is what the Australian government wanted us to move to [and] we are more than happy to take on that responsibility.”

Currently the NT Health department is responsible for domestic arrivals at the facility from interstate, while international arrivals are managed by the federally-funded National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC).

Mr Gunner would not say how much extra money the Commonwealth was providing to fund the expansion.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner is standing in front of a microphone with a serious expression. Behind him is the Australian flag.
Michael Gunner says the NT Government will work to increase the cap on arrivals at the centre.(

ABC News: Michael Franchi


Mr Gunner said this decision had been aided by a significant decrease in domestic travellers needing quarantine and that the change would not increase the risk of the virus getting out into the community.

“What we are moving towards is the same model, with many of the same people involved, but a clearer governance structure and clear certainty of who is accountable for what,” he said.

NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said police had long favoured consolidating operations into “a single governance model” and that the removal of federal oversight would not damage operations.

“The infection and control procedures that we have in place are world class and that is held equally in NT Health as it is with the NCCTRC,” he said.

Vista into the sun from a height looking over the fence at the reception and carpark of the village
The former mining workers’ village outside Darwin has been taking 850 arrivals a fortnight.(

ABC News: Michael Franchi


“NCCTRC play an incredibly important service to the rest of the country and to international hotspots when they are called upon. We want to make sure that their ability respond is not dulled.”

Mr Gunner said the expansion of the facility would be a “huge logistical job” and that work would begin immediately.

“We have agreed to this expansion because we know Howard Springs can play a larger role for the nation without compromising the safety of Territorians.”

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Play Video. Duration: 2 minutes 25 seconds

Inside the Howard Springs quarantine facility

Mr Gunner said the workforce at the centre would need to increase from over 100 to 500.

“A recruitment drive will start this month, and new staff will start and be mobilised from May,” he said.

More than 4,600 international arrivals have quarantined at the Howard Springs quarantine facility since repatriation flights to the Northern Territory began on October 23.

The former workers’ village housed Australians evacuated from Wuhan and the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship before it began taking on Australians returning on federal government-organised repatriation flights.

The village was vacated in 2019 and was handed over to the NT government just before the pandemic hit.

There have been 67 positive COVID-19 cases identified at the facility since flights began last year.

There have been no cases of community transmission in the Territory, with all cases related to international or interstate travel.

Mr Gunner also confirmed that the vaccine roll-out in the Northern Territory was on track, with 1,840 frontline health workers inoculated so far and more than 2,200 vaccines delivered in total.

He said the NT government would receive its first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines next week and would begin administering doses immediately.

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Queensland records one new case of coronavirus in hotel quarantine and one historical case from previous cluster

“We’re now accelerating the rollout of Pfizer across the state,” Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said on Monday.

“The biggest issue is supply,” Dr Young said.

It comes after Australia’s medical experts changed their official advice last Thursday, recommending against the use of the AstraZeneca jab for people under the age of 50 over concerns about the risk of causing a rare blood-clotting disease.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said Queensland Health is still trying to find ways to distribute the Pfizer vaccine — which requires refrigeration at low temperatures — to parts of the state that don’t have vaccine hubs.

“We need to train up our staff to learn how to handle the Pfizer vaccine,” Ms D’Ath said.

While Dr Young said the Pfizer vaccine’s storage and administration requirements differed to those of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Hong Kong coronavirus: Scout Association headquarters in Kowloon investigated for allegedly hosting banquet with more than 100 guests

Authorities are investigating alleged violations of coronavirus social-distancing rules at the headquarters of the Scout Association of Hong Kong in Kowloon, where a banquet of more than 100 people was held – five times greater than the legal limit.The Office of the Licensing Authority (OLA) and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department conducted a joint investigation of the 25-storey Hong Kong Scout Centre on Austin Road in Jordan on Monday, a spokesman from the Home Affairs Department…

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