NT records first COVID-19 death

An unvaccinated woman from Binjari community has become the NT's first COVID-19 fatality.
An unvaccinated woman from Binjari community has become the NT's first COVID-19 fatality.

The Northern Territory has recorded its first death from COVID-19 as police start an investigation into the border breach that ignited the current outbreak.

The unvaccinated 77-year-old Aboriginal woman from the Binjari community died about 11.30pm on Thursday.

She had "bravely battled" the virus for about two weeks, Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters on Friday.

"This is a very hard day," he said.

"While we are the last place in Australia to have one of our own succumb to COVID, it is very unlikely to be the last time we have to deliver such news."

Mr Gunner said the woman had been in Royal Darwin Hospital since November 20 and had underlying health issues.

It comes amid a police search for a man who fled from the Alice Springs quarantine facility.

Jeremy MacDonald, 27, is alleged to have escaped over his room's balcony about 1pm on Friday.

He's the fifth person to abscond from an NT quarantine facility in less than a week.

Mr MacDonald returned a negative test on Wednesday, after being ordered to quarantine four days earlier for failing to declare he had visited a hotspot before travelling to the NT.

There are 60 cases in the territory's current outbreak. The majority are Indigenous Territorians.

The fatality comes a day after the virus was detected in another remote community, with a 45-year-old man diagnosed in Lajamanu, 900km northwest of Alice Springs, near the Western Australia border.

Mr Gunner said the man contracted the virus after travelling 600km to Katherine to get his second vaccine dose on November 15.

Lajamanu is the third Aboriginal community to record an infection.

The outbreak started when an infected woman illegally entered the NT in late October.

The 21-year-old lied on her border entry form before travelling from Cairns to Darwin after visiting Victoria, where she contracted the virus.

She infected a man in Darwin before the virus spread to Katherine, then the Aboriginal communities of Robinson River - 1000km southeast of Darwin - Binjari and Lajamanu.

"Unfortunately this death does apparently have links to a breach of health officer directions," NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said.

"It appears to be the seed that started the spread of COVID within the NT and as such Major Crime are now undertaking an investigation."

Nineteen people from Binjari - 330km south of Darwin - have been diagnosed with the virus since the first cases were detected in the community of about 200 on November 20.

Dozens of infected residents and close contacts have been moved to The Centre for National Resilience quarantine facility at Howard Springs near Darwin.

The health response to limit the outbreak has tested all those involved as the virus spread to remote communities where residents often live in overcrowded housing and temperatures can climb above 40C.

Meanwhile, two travellers to the NT from Victoria and South Australia - unrelated to the current cluster - have tested positive for the virus.

They have been moved into the Howard Springs quarantine facility with their families.

Across the NT, 88 per cent of people over the age of 16 have had their first vaccine dose and 78 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Travellers from hotspots can home quarantine in the NT so long as they submit to mandatory testing for the virus.

Australian Associated Press