The Northern Territory Government has announced the immediate removal of all remote road border control points, although it says checkpoints will be rolled out again if the need arises.
- Remote road border checkpoints are now closed
- Checkpoints will remain in place at airports
- Travellers will need to declare if they have been to a hotspot
Since the early stages of the pandemic, NT Police and Defence personnel have been stationed at remote checkpoints to help prevent the spread of coronavirus into the NT.
But what will this mean for travellers hoping to enter the Territory?
Entering the NT by road
For travellers entering the Northern Territory via road, there will no longer be a physical police presence manually checking border entry forms, but new arrivals will still need to fill one in a before crossing over.
Anyone who has been to a coronavirus hotpot in the 14 days before entering the NT — which, for purposes of travelling to the Territory, includes 10 suburbs in Melbourne — must go into two weeks of mandatory quarantine and pay $2,500 to cover the cost of their care.
The NT Government said most people arriving in the Northern Territory who had visited Melbourne, arrived by air.
But if these hotspot travellers arrive by road they need to navigate their way through the border checkpoints of other states before reaching the NT’s, and will be directed to self-isolate in another state if they’ve visited a high-risk area.
For example, people who have been in the Greater Melbourne area since January 28 and cross into South Australia — the most direct route to the NT — must self-quarantine for two weeks and get three COVID-19 tests during that time.
Entering the NT by plane
Checkpoints will remain in place at airports, and arrivals will need to have their border entry forms filled out and show it to authorities as they land.
Anyone who has been to a COVID-19 hotspot will be sent straight into mandatory quarantine.
Facemasks are now mandatory at all Northern Territory airports and while on board aircraft, although children under 12 and people who have specific medical conditions don’t have to wear them.
What if I’ve been to a hotspot?
You must declare it on your border entry form and go straight into two weeks’ mandatory quarantine, paying the $2,500 bill yourself.
It’s the responsibility of travellers to stay up to date with current declared hotspots.
There are steep penalties for those who lie or don’t abide by NT Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie’s directions, with fines of up to $5,056 for an individual and up to $25,280 for a business.
How soon will changes be made?
The NT Government made this announcement at about 2:00pm on Saturday, and remote border checkpoints are now closed.
The decision to pull officers back isn’t completely out of the blue.
In December, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the police presence at the NT’s minor road border entry points of Docker River, Tobermorey, Lake Nash, Mulga Park, Curtain Springs, Tanami, Kintore and Finke would be wound back.
At the time, Mr Gunner said while police would still maintain a physical presence at the Northern Territory’s three major road entry points — the Stuart Highway, Victoria Highway and Barkly Highway — these three remaining road border entry points would be demobilised by early 2021.
A spokeswoman from the Department of the Chief Minister said with risks easing in other parts of the country, officers were being stood down which would also help conserve resources.
“We have been monitoring the situation closely for a number of months,” she said.
“The drawdown of BCPs [border control points] was a gradual process and has been made in consultation with our medical experts and with the guidance of operational data.”
What else do I have to know?
As Dr Heggie has made clear on multiple occasions, personal behaviour is the best defence against COVID-19.
If you develop any symptoms at all — stay at home and get tested.
That means washing your hands, practising physical distancing and using The Territory Check In App to check in to businesses you visit.
There have been 102 cases of COVID-19 in the NT, all of which are linked to overseas or interstate travel and no cases of community transmission.
Currently, 448 people are undertaking quarantine in the Northern Territory.
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