NT eases COVID-19 testing rules, 550 cases

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The Northern Territory has reported 550 new COVID-19 cases and mandated the reporting of positive rapid-antigen test results.

It brings the territory's total active caseload to about 3000 with 24 in hospital, four fewer than the previous day.

"All things considered, the growth in numbers is fairly controlled although it is highly unlikely we have reached our peak," Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters on Thursday.

Of the cases in territory hospitals, 18 are suffering severe symptoms and one is in intensive care.

"We do not have a high proportion of severe cases which indicates our high vaccination rate is doing its job," Mr Gunner said.

Meanwhile, polymerase chain reaction tests will also no longer be required to confirm positive rapid-antigen test results.

But people who test positive using a RAT will be required to report the result to the health department or face a $5000 fine.

"While they are not as accurate as PCR tests, rapid antigen tests are still pretty accurate," Mr Gunner said.

"At the scale we are at now, with hundreds of new cases a day, the margin of error of RATs are not a big issue".

Positive cases exiting isolation will also no longer need to take a final PCR test to confirm they are negative so long as they are not symptomatic.

Additionally, close contacts can use a RAT in the first three days of isolating instead of queuing for a PCR test.

Mr Gunner said RATs delivered results far quicker than PCRs and this was important given the speed at which the Omicron variant could spread through the community.

"We are making these changes today because we don't want Territorians to go through what people elsewhere went through over Christmas and New Year," Mr Gunner said.

"We don't want you stuck in queues for eight or nine hours waiting for a test and we don't want you stuck at home waiting for five, six or seven days waiting for a result".

Mr Gunner said the change would keep Territorians safe and let them get on with their lives.

It comes as Amoonguna, 15km southeast of Alice Springs, is ordered into a five-day lockout of unvaccinated people after the case load in the community of about 350 Aboriginal people grew to 16.

The NT detected 352 new cases on Wednesday, 594 on Tuesday, 403 on Monday, 481 on Sunday and 594 on Saturday.

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