NT tries to stave off economic crisis

Greg Roberts

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has warned Territorians they will face an economic and health crisis from the coronavirus if they don't work together to protect local businesses.

Mr Gunner spoke to business leaders in Darwin on Monday to discuss how to protect the economy, ahead of releasing the NT's own stimulus on top of the $17.6 billion federal package.

Business groups were briefed on forecasts for the NT and on how best to stimulate the economy, including spending money on "screwdriver-ready projects", he said.

The Territory has been the nation's worst-performing economy over the last year, according to according to the quarterly State of the States report by CommSec.

NT deputy chief health officer Dianne Stephens said she was confident that COVID-19 was not in the Territory other than the one reported case, because of the work being done to contain it.

"Eventually we will have COVID-19 in our community, we will recover from it and we will develop herd immunity and we will go on with our lives, it will just become another disease in the background," she said.

The Gunner Government is overhauling its 2020-21 Budget in response to the coronavirus pandemic to release the stimulus package, which will add to a forecast deficit of $1.049 billion and net debt of $5.93 billion.

The coronavirus would deliver a "whack to both the revenue and expenditure side of the budget", Mr Gunner said.

"That is just going to happen but the advice from the governor of the Reserve Bank and Treasury is that now is the time to act, go hard and go early, you can not wait.

"We have got to work together and stick together ... the most important people in this fight are Territorians, we need you shopping locally, supporting local businesses, local workers, our shops need you right now.

The chief minister said the government had put a stop on all work-related interstate travel and to remote indigenous communities - which historically are more at risk from global pandemics - barring exceptional circumstances.

Fines and six-month jail terms could apply to anyone who doesn't self-isolate as required after being overseas, but Mr Gunner said he expected people to do the right thing.

Mass gatherings of more than 500 people will be banned, although schools and universities will stay open and Darwin's famed tourist markets including Mindil Beach will operate as they are deemed an acceptable risk.