Northern Territory health teams are preparing for the worst after nine COVID-19 cases were diagnosed at two Indigenous households in a single day.
It’s the most cases diagnosed in the NT in a 24-hour period, with fears they could lead to infections in dozens more Aboriginal people.
The territory’s latest outbreak now numbers 11 cases, with a 30-year-woman and a 43-year-old man on Monday reported as infected.
“This is a lot of cases. These are all Aboriginal Territorians. This makes real every fear that we’ve had,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters on Tuesday.
All 11 cases are household contacts and live in Katherine, about 320 kilometres south of Darwin.
The 30-year-old woman is the sister of federal Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. She is also unvaccinated and had travelled to the remote community of Robinson River where she was diagnosed with the virus, the first case reported in a remote NT Aboriginal community.
No new cases have been found since at Robinson River, but results from the first round of testing won’t be known until Wednesday.
Overcrowded housing and low vaccination rates trouble many Indigenous communities across the NT, with reports some homes in Robinson River have 20 occupants.
“It’s been a concern in all our remote communities,” Mr Gunner said.
“Delta has close to a 100 per cent infection rate … so it does concern us if it gets into any household, particularly an overcrowded household.
“It’s going to see a lot of people test positive.”
The latest cases include a 71-year-old man, five-year-old twin girls, and a 65-year-old woman who has been admitted to Royal Darwin Hospital.
Four women – aged 62, 40, 38 and 22 – have also been diagnosed with the virus, along with a 16-year-old girl.
All have been moved to the Centre for National Resilience, with the exception of the woman in hospital.
Mr Gunner said it was likely the cluster was linked to the NT’s first community transmission outbreak, which was triggered several weeks ago by a woman who unlawfully travelled to the NT from Cairns after visiting Victoria.
Greater Katherine and Robinson River, about 1000km from Darwin, were plunged into a three-day lockdown on Monday evening.
That has now been extended in Katherine until Monday, with a territory-wide order to wear face masks in most public areas.