NT Police say men who travelled from coronavirus hotspot to Arnhem Land made false declarations


Two men have been flown out of a remote Northern Territory town and placed in supervised quarantine after they “falsely declared” they had not been in a designated coronavirus hotspot.

The men, who had been in Sydney in the past 14 days and flew into the Arnhem Land town of Nhulunbuy on Tuesday, now face hefty fines or even jail time.

NT Police said both men returned negative COVID-19 test results.

The remote Aboriginal community of Yirrkala is situated less than 20 kilometres from Nhulunbuy.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, tough restrictions were placed on access to remote Aboriginal communities to prevent what health groups said could be a potentially catastrophic spread of the virus.

The NT Government has ordered that anyone who arrives in the Northern Territory from declared coronavirus hotspots must enter two weeks of mandatory supervised quarantine at an authorised facility.

NT Police said it questioned the two men after identifying “inconsistencies” related to their travel and “further investigations revealed the men had been in Sydney in the last 14 days”.

“Both men were taken into police custody in Nhulunbuy and placed in quarantine pending being transported to the Howard Springs quarantine facility via Police Airwing,” NT Police said.

The Northern Territory Chief Minister has previously warned any interstate arrivals who mislead authorities on their arrival documents could end up in prison.

“If you lie, and don’t want to spend 14 days in a hotel room, then you face three years in a prison cell,” Mr Michael Gunner told the ABC earlier this month.

Victoria, Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the NSW coastal shires of Eurobodalla and Port Stephens have now been declared hotspots by the Northern Territory Government.

“On Tuesday, July 21, a 25-year-old and a 54-year-old-male travelled to Nhulunbuy on a flight from the Australian Capital Territory via Queensland. It is alleged both falsely declared they had not been in a designated hot spot,” NT Police said.

NT Police Incident Control Commander Matt Hollamby called the actions of the men “grossly irresponsible”.

“These individuals potentially placed the lives of Territorians at risk,” he said.

“If you lie on your entry declaration, you may face heavy penalties including three years in jail.

“Due to the diligent work of NT Police and the systems in place to protect Territorians, this serious breach of COVID-19 restrictions was discovered quickly.

“The actions of the men comes at a significant cost and an unnecessary use of resources. NT police will now complete a deep clean of the Nhulunbuy Police Station and a police aircraft.”

The men have each been issued with a notice to appear in court on Monday, August 10.

In March, the Commonwealth Government decreed remote communities as Designated Biosecurity Areas under the Biosecurity Act to restrict access to these communities, but the restrictions were lifted in June.

The restrictions were instituted to protect vulnerable Indigenous populations who suffered high rates of chronic disease and comorbidities.

Earlier this month, the Northern Territory’s peak Aboriginal health body urged the Northern Territory Government to immediately shut its borders to arrivals from coronavirus hotspots.

“I just remind Government and the Chief Minister that in the Northern Territory we have the largest vulnerable population in this country,” said John Paterson, the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory chief executive.

“And all it takes is one positive COVID person to get out into those communities and we will have a catastrophe on our hands.”



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Crikey Worm: The Crossroads most travelled


Good morning, early birds. Sydney’s Crossroads Hotel outbreak has been genomically linked to Melbourne cases, and Chinese technology company Huawei has been banned from Britain’s 5G network by the UK government. It’s the news you need to know, with Chris Woods

(Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

MELBOURNE LINKED TO CROSSROADS CLUSTER

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney’s Crossroads Hotel outbreak has been genomically linked to Melbourne cases as the state prepares for community transmission and NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian draws a line on adopting an elimination response.

With updates from both Victoria and NSW’s outbreaks coming thick and fast, some morning highlights:

  • The Herald Sun ($) reports that Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) staff failed to alert Australian Food Group after a worker at their Laverton North abattoir tested positive
  • According to The Guardian, all COVID-19-positive residents of Menarock Life Essendon — Melbourne’s most heavily-impacted aged care home — have been moved to hospital as the state faces 35 impacted facilities
  • More than 14,000 doctors and other healthcare workers have signed up for relief work across overstretched Melbourne hospitals, as The Age reports that at least 114 healthcare workers are infected while hospitalisation and ICU rates grow
  • And according to the ABC, four men will face court in Adelaide after allegedly stowing away on an interstate freight train from Melbourne.

THE THEORY THAT WILL NEVER DIE: According to The Australian ($), DHHS has confirmed an as yet undefined link between a “North Melbourne Family” cluster of around 30 cases — which includes two H&M workers who tested positive after attending the June 6 Black Lives Matter protest but were respectively “not infectious at the time of the rally” and “not thought to have acquired the infection from the protest” — and the 242-odd North Melbourne/Flemington towers outbreak.

Crikey has every faith that circuitous, some might say deeply tenuous link will be treated for what it is over at News Corp.

IT’S MY WAY OR THE HUAWEI

Chinese technology company Huawei has been banned from Britain’s 5G network by the UK government, and in a move the ABC reports will cost up to £2 billion ($3.6 billion), existing infrastructure from the Chinese technology giant will be removed. The decision follows sustained lobbying from the Trump administration — as well as from government backbenchers — for Boris Johnson to reverse his initial approval of limited integration.

ON THE HOME FRONT: While the Morrison government has equally led the charge against Huawei, new Australian publication The Klaxon reports the Coalition has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars sending university students on month-long “immersion” trips to the company’s Shenzhen headquarters.

PALACE GUARDS

According to The Age, Buckingham Palace has issued a statement following the release of the Palace Letters by maintaining that Queen Elizabeth II played “no part” in the dismissal of Gough Whitlam, a key claim during the 1975 dismissal that appears to have been supported by a letter to the Queen written on the day by then-governor-general John Kerr.

However as Crikey explored yesterday, the letters demonstrate that Kerr did receive legal advice from the Queen’s private secretary Sir Martin Charteris.

AN EYE FOR AN EYE MAKES THE WHOLE WORLD BLIND

According to the ABC, the federal US Bureau of Prisons has executed white supremacist and convicted murderer Daniel Lewis Lee — the first execution since 2003 after the Trump administration reinstated the death penalty at the federal level. Lee professed his innocence just before being killed by lethal injection.

Elsewhere, a video investigation by The Washington Post has found US police partially blinded eight people on a single day of the George Floyd protests, evidence of which undermines official statements. Six protesters, one photojournalist and a passerby were left partially blind after being hit, during May 30 rallies that spanned California to Ohio, by bean-bag rounds, pepper-balls, and, in one case, a gas canister.

HOW MUCH DOES A NEW EYE COST? For a reminder of just where privatised healthcare gets a country, a study by consumer advocacy group Families USA found that a record 5.4 million American workers lost their health insurance between February and May.

DON’T MIFF OUT

Finally, in just a tiny bit of joy in a city that’s set for at least five more weeks of lockdown, the Melbourne International Film Festival has launched their program for the digital MIFF 68½.

Alternatively, for a more art-deco-cum-black-comedy artistic vision, check out the new Do Not Visit Victoria social media campaign.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Find something new.

The White House’s American Workforce Policy Advisory Board

Three months after America hit a record 14.7% unemployment — and with negotiations stalled on a second series of whopping US$1200 stimulus cheques — the White House’s latest ad campaign doesn’t not read like a gigantic middle finger.

Palace letters show just how much the Queen knew about the Dismissal

“According to Hocking, letters between Kerr and the palace are key to those two events: the blocking of supply on October 17, and Whitlam’s move to call a half-Senate election around November 6. Five days later, on November 11, the governor-general dismissed the Whitlam government and appointed Fraser caretaker prime minister.

“Hocking describes the volume of correspondence between Kerr and Charteris as ‘dramatic’ and a major departure from the convention of governors-general before and since.”

Conflict of Interest: Crown is part of Australia’s hotel quarantine story, so why is a board member running the hotel inquiry?

“Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews wasted no time announcing an inquiry into the botched Victorian scheme earlier this month. And on Friday, Scott Morrison launched a nationwide review of all hotel quarantine arrangements, led by the former health department secretary Jane Halton.

“Halton seems like an obvious choice to lead the nationwide inquiry — an experienced bureaucrat and public servant who was already on the government’s National COVID-19 Coordination Commission and has weathered such storms as the children overboard scandal when she was head of John Howard’s people smuggling task force.

The politics of the pandemic are yet to begin

“While ordinary Australians were worrying about — or taking schadenfreude from — the growing viral outbreak in Victoria last week, the political class stopped to engage in some tea leaf-reading about a by-election in rural NSW.

“Eden-Monaro ended up being won — to the chagrin of many in the press gallery and News Corp — by Labor’s Kristy McBain over Liberal climate denialist Fiona Kotvojs, in what was billed as a test for Labor leader Anthony Albanese.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Government may not repay 200 Centrelink debts raised using ‘unlawful’ method

‘Best doctors and nurses’: Australia leads world in COVID-19 ICU survival rates 

$56 coffee: Cape York food prices a ‘disgrace’ ($)

Workers pay price as gig economy avoids regulations, inquiry finds

Morrison government forges ahead with penalty rate cuts

International students turn to foodbanks as casual work dries up in second Melbourne lockdown

Tech stock bubble warnings rise amid coronavirus rally

Experts deride ‘snake oil’ mental health claims for $498m Australian War Memorial expansion

NZ opposition leader quits just weeks after taking on the job

Health experts: Miami COVID-19 outbreak similar to one seen in Wuhan

US executes convicted murderer Daniel Lewis Lee, the first federal execution in almost two decades

GovExec Daily: How the President’s ‘deep state’ rhetoric affects feds (podcast)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Cutting taxes for the wealthy is the worst possible response to this economic crisisJohn Quiggin (The Conversation): “The primary rationale for early tax cuts is that they will stimulate demand. But the economy’s real problem is not inadequate demand — particularly not on the part of high-income earners. On the contrary, the problem for high-income earners is having a steady income even as many of the things they usually spend on (high-end restaurant meals, interstate and overseas holidays) have become unobtainable.”

Lay Down Sally McManus betrays all her flock ($) — Janet Albrechtsen (The Australian): “Late last week, the ACTU secretary made it clear she would not support the Morrison government bringing forward income tax cuts for Australian workers in the October budget. In effect, she has told workers that she, and the union movement, and their fully funded political arm, the Labor Party, do not believe workers deserve to have more of their own money returned to their pockets because they can’t be trusted to spend it wisely.”

Making the AFL a safer workplace for allCeleste Liddle (Eureka Street): “My mother’s side of the family contains several generations of Collingwood supporters. These were old school Collingwood types — working class white folks that earnt a crust in the many factories which were dotted around the area and now mostly contain luxury apartments. Family tradition continues now — my mother and father have tried to ‘claim’ my nephews and niece for their team and Collingwood is winning out over Geelong, no matter how much my Arrernte father states that the ‘great Polly Farmer’ changed his life.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

Sydney

Australia

  • The Australia Institute and ANTaR will host Sovereignty and Treaty with Professor Megan Davis, National Native Title Council Jamie Lowe, and Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania chair Michael Mansell.





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Queensland coronavirus public health alert sees 250 tests in Bundaberg after fruit picker travelled while infectious


More than 250 people have been tested for coronavirus after a fruit picker took two flights — from Melbourne to Brisbane, then to Bundaberg — while infectious.

He also worked and lived with other strawberry pickers at a farm before his positive test came back, prompting a mass public health alert from Queensland authorities.

The Victorian man, 24, was in isolation under clinical supervision in Bundaberg after being diagnosed with the disease on Friday.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said so far, 57 people had tested negative, including 15 close contacts in Brisbane and 42 co-workers in Bundaberg.

The remaining results from the 250 tests were expected over the next 24 hours.

A pop-up testing clinic was set up at the Bundaberg farm and further rapid contact tracing is still underway.

“The results so far are promising and the response from the farming business, the patient’s contacts and the Wide Bay community has been excellent,” she said.

“We are continuing our rapid response to this case, including contact tracing in an effort to find every person the patient had potential contact with since arriving in Queensland almost a week ago.

“As a precaution, we plan to do a round of follow-up testing later this week,” she said.

Queensland Health is contacting passengers aboard two flights: Virgin VA313 (Melbourne-Brisbane) and Virgin VA2905 (Brisbane-Bundaberg).

However, a Brisbane surgeon who was on the same flight as the confirmed Bundaberg coronavirus case said he was disappointed with Queensland Health’s response.

Dr Jason Paterdis contacted the 13-HEALTH hotline when he saw the public health alert but was left confused after the nurse was not aware of the alert.

“The first nurse that I had spoken to didn’t really know about the public health alert that had been issued by Queensland Health, despite the public health alert saying I was to call this 13-HEALTH number if I was on the flight.

“I was told not to worry and that if I had symptoms to go and get tested, but if not, continue as normal.

“I was later contacted by Queensland Health and told I would need to quarantine for ten days,” he said.

Dr Paterdis said his friend contacted him about the alert.

“The nurse I spoke with [also] didn’t know much about incubation periods and things like that, which I would expect, if you were going to call a number that was advised to call based on a public health alert, that they would do better than that.

“It’s disappointing they just seem to not know much about it,” Dr Paterdis said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today confirmed there were no new cases of coronavirus in Queensland overnight, leaving just three active cases in the state



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