The Northern Territory’s chief minister has unleashed anti-vaxxers in an extraordinary diatribe, vowing to keep the border closed until every worker in high-risk industries gets a Covid jab.
Mick Gunner said on Wednesday that his phase 3 reopening plan would include ‘the strictest vaccination rules in Australia’.
“I know I have to say that I respect people’s choices and reasons for not getting vaccinated, but I don’t. I do not understand. I don’t respect it.’ said Mr. Gunner.
“You can’t choose to tax the health system because you refuse to follow preventive health measures. You cannot choose to be a spreader of a deadly virus in our community,” he continued.
“And you absolutely cannot choose to infect Territories who cannot yet be vaccinated, such as our young children.”
The NT is in a ’50-day race’ to get 80 percent of the population vaccinated (Photo: Darwin in August)
The Northern Territory aims to have 80 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by early November.
If so, sweeping changes will be made as part of the reopening plan of the area to jurisdictions where the virus is present.
“The NT can’t keep Covid out forever,” Gunner told reporters on Wednesday.
“The key to the success of these next steps, the key to keeping the area safe and open, is vaccines. We are now in a 50-day race to freedom.”
To ease restrictions, more than 80 percent of the population over the age of 16 must be fully vaccinated.
This includes remote indigenous communities, some of which currently have vaccination rates below 10 percent.
There will also need to be ‘strong and growing’ vaccination rates among 12- to 15-year-olds.
The NT Chief Minister said he would introduce strictest vaccine rules in the country
If this is achieved, vaccinated people from COVID-19 hotspots can enter the NT and go into quarantine at home or other suitable location.
“As far as our border measures are concerned when we get to the next stage, it will come down to this: ‘no jab, no entry,'” said Mr Gunner.
The way the area responds to virus outbreaks will also change, with only those people who choose not to be vaccinated likely to be locked up.
“For vaccinated people, life will almost go on as usual,” Mr Gunner said.
Once the new rules are in place, businesses and venues will have the right to refuse entry to unvaccinated people, and employers can fire or reassign employees who refuse to get the shot.
Jobs requiring mandatory vaccination include those who work with children or vulnerable people, frontline health and care workers, and customer service positions in retail and hospitality.
This means, among other things, that the (depicted) borders of the NT will remain closed until every employee in a high-risk environment has been vaccinated
Critical infrastructure, supply chain and logistics personnel will also be ordered by the NT Chief Health Officer to be vaccinated.
The NT has just started a “vaccination blitz,” with the expectation that each of the 246,500-strong population who has not yet received a shot will be within 50 days.
Mr Gunner said remote Aboriginal communities that fail to meet the 80 percent vaccination target may face further travel restrictions to protect their vulnerable residents.
The NT government is also exploring further measures to protect children, who are currently ineligible for the shot, including extra ventilation in classrooms.
“This thing will be around for years to come, so we have to find a way to live with it safely,” Mr Gunner said.
“Waiting for Covid to go away just isn’t a viable option.”
About 71 percent of Territories (pictured) have had their first vaccine dose
If the NT opens the borders, there will probably be a traffic light system.
Those coming from green zones get free entry into the state, whether vaccinated or not.
Travelers with an orange zone can be quarantined at home if they are fully vaccinated and can leave after a negative test.
While red zone visitors are required to isolate for the full 14 days but can do so at home if fully vaccinated.
Overall, 71 percent of all Territories have received their first vaccine dose and 52 percent are fully vaccinated.
In remote areas, 54 percent of people have had their first dose and 43 percent have been fully vaccinated.
If the NT does open the borders, a green, orange and red permit system will be introduced
But in Central Australia and the Barkly region, vaccine hesitation still persists, raising concerns for vulnerable Aboriginal residents, many of whom suffer from chronic health problems.
The community of Alpurrurulam, on the Queensland border near Mt Isa, had the worst vaccine uptake, according to recent figures released by the NT government.
Eight percent of the 350-person population has received their first dose and five percent are fully vaccinated.
Mr Gunner (pictured) said he ‘didn’t understand’ hesitation over vaccine
Vaccine rollout has also been slow to reach Aputula, 217 miles south of Alice Springs on the Finke River.
There, too, only eight percent of the 160 community members have received their first dose and five percent are fully vaccinated.
In another five communities, the first dose is less than 15 percent, and less than 10 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
Overall, 35 percent of Aboriginal people living in remote communities in Central Australia have received their first vaccine dose and 23 percent are fully vaccinated.