NT starts 50 day race to vax and reopen

The NT is aiming to have 80 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated by early November.
The NT is aiming to have 80 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated by early November.

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.

These include mandatory vaccinations for workers in high-risk settings, along with new border, quarantine and lockdown rules.

"The NT cannot keep COVID out forever," Chief Minister Michael 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 move to "COVID-safe freedom", 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.

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.

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."

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.

Australian Associated Press