The Northern Territory Chief Minister has unleashed on anti-vaxxers in an extraordinary rant and vowed to keep the border shut until every worker in high-risk industries gets a Covid jab.
Speaking on Wednesday, Mick Gunner said his stage 3 reopening plan would involve ‘the strongest vaccination rules in Australia’.
‘I know I’m supposed to say I respect people’s choices and reasons for not getting vaccinated, I don’t. I don’t understand it. I don’t respect it.’ Mr Gunner said.
‘You don’t get to choose to burden out health system because you refuse to follow preventative health measures. You don’t get to choose to be a spreader of a deadly virus in our community,’ he continued.
‘And you absolutely cannot choose to infect Territorians who can’t get vaccinated yet like our young kids.’
The NT is in a ’50-day race’ to get 80 per cent of the population vaccinated (pictured: Darwin in August)
The Northern Territory is aiming to have 80 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by early November.
If it does, sweeping changes will be introduced as part of the territory’s reopening plan to jurisdictions where the virus is present.
‘The NT cannot keep Covid out forever,’ Mr Gunner told reporters on Wednesday.
‘The key to these next steps being a success, the key to the territory staying safe and open, is vaccines. We are now in a 50-day race to freedom.’
To ease restrictions more than 80 per cent of the population over 16 will need to be fully vaccinated.
This includes remote Indigenous communities, some of which currently have vaccination rates below 10 per cent.
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 the strictest vaccine rules in the country
If this is achieved, vaccinated people from COVID-19 hotspots will be able to enter the NT and quarantine at home or another suitable location.
‘As far as our border measures go when we reach the next phase, it will boil down to this: ‘no jab, no entry’,’ Mr Gunner said.
How the territory responds to virus outbreaks is also set to change, with only those people who choose not to be vaccinated likely to be ordered into lockdown.
‘For vaccinated people, life will continue almost as usual,’ Mr Gunner said.
Once the new rules are introduced, businesses and venues will have the right to refuse entry to unvaccinated people, and employers will be able to dismiss or re-assign workers who refuse to get the jab.
Jobs that will require mandatory vaccination include those who work with children or vulnerable people, frontline health and emergency workers, and customer service roles in the retail and hospitality industry.
This would include keeping the NT’s (pictured) borders shut until every worker in high-risk settings is vaccinated
Essential infrastructure, supply-chain and logistics workers will also be ordered by the NT Chief Health Officer to get vaccinated.
The NT has just started a ‘vaccination blitz’, with expectations every one of the 246,500-strong territory population, who have not already been offered a jab, will be within 50 days.
Mr Gunner said remote Aboriginal communities that do not reach the 80 per cent vaccination target may have further travel restrictions imposed to protect their vulnerable residents.
The NT government is also exploring further measures to protect children, who are currently ineligible for the jab, including additional ventilation in classrooms.
‘This thing is going to be around for years, so we need to work out a way to live safely with this,’ Mr Gunner said.
‘Waiting for Covid to go away is just not a feasible option.’
About 71 per cent of Territorians (pictured) have had their first vaccine dose
When the NT does open borders there will likely be a traffic light system.
Those arriving from green zoned areas will be permitted free access to the state whether they are vaccinated or not.
Orange zoned travellers will be allowed to quarantine at home if they are fully vaccinated and can leave after a negative test.
While red zoned visitors would be required to isolate for the full 14 days but can do so at home if they’re fully vaccinated.
Overall, 71 per cent of all Territorians have received their first vaccine dose and 52 per cent are fully vaccinated.
In remote areas, 54 per cent of people have had their first dose, with 43 per cent fully vaccinated.
When the NT does open borders a green, orange and red permit system is set to be introduced
But pockets of vaccine hesitancy persist in Central Australia and the Barkly region, raising concerns for the 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 per cent of the 350-strong population have received their first dose, with five per cent fully vaccinated.
Mr Gunner (pictured) said he ‘didn’t understand’ vaccine hesitancy
The vaccine rollout has also been slow to reach Aputula, 317 kilometres south of Alice Springs on the Finke River.
There too, only eight per cent of the 160 community members have received their first dose and five per cent are fully vaccinated.
In another five communities, first dose rates are less than 15 per cent, with under 10 per cent of the population fully vaccinated.
Overall, 35 per cent of Aboriginal people living in the remote communities in Central Australia have received their first vaccine dose and 23 per cent are fully vaccinated.