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National News

Virus now outside Darwin raising concerns

Fears coronavirus would reach a vulnerable indigenous community have come true after a police officer and his wife based in central Australia tested positive for the infectious disease.

However, there is optimism no-one in the mostly Aboriginal community of Harts Range north-east of Alice Springs will contract the virus, with health authorities insisting the couple had been responsible and gone into self-isolation after an overseas trip.

They had been on holiday in Austria and had flown into Yulara near Uluru on Jetstar flight JQ664 last Sunday.

They began to feel unwell at home, made contact with the local clinic and medical staff left testing kits outside their door, so there was no physical interaction with anyone, NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said.

They were escorted back to Alice Springs Hospital and are being treated there.

However, fearful locals asked health and regional council staff to leave.

Mr Chalker blamed the media, saying health authorities should inform the residents of Harts Range what happened to "ensure a calmness in approach".

"We are trying to engage with those people (staff leaving) and engage with the community so they can hear the facts and so that calmness can be restored," he told reporters.

Twelve Territorians have now been diagnosed with COVID-19, all of whom are in hospital after contracting it overseas with no community, human-to-human transmissions yet.

Strict new measures introduced this week included border controls requiring new arrivals in the NT to self-isolate for 14 days and prove they had somewhere to reside at.

Tough restrictions on remote indigenous communities under Commonwealth bio-security legislation were also in place, blocking visitors to indigenous communities.

While police and other authorised people such as environmental health officers had been conducting spot checks to enforce laws requiring people to be in quarantine if they entered the Territory from outside, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said all of those people would be checked from Saturday.

"Every single person who is required to be in self-quarantine - whether they have come from overseas or interstate - will be checked to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing," he said.

"To the overwhelming majority of people who are doing the right thing: thank you. You are protecting your fellow Territorians.

"To the one per cent who think the rules don't apply to them: This is no time for thinking that what you want, matters more than what we need, what your community needs."

If need be, people would be placed in mandatory controlled quarantine for 14 days, he said.

Mr Chalker said people must accept the lifestyle they were accustomed to "would not maintain safety for those you love and for other members of the community", possibly for the next six months.

© AAP 2020