Positive viral fragments were detected on Thursday in the Aboriginal community of Binjari, located on the edge of Katherine, which is currently in lockdown.
Rapid assessment teams have been sent to the small town to test and vaccinate the population of about 200 residents.
“It’s our intention to test every single person in the Binjari community today,” Mr Gunner said at a press conference on Friday.
One of two new COVID cases in NT being treated at Royal Darwin Hospital
The source of the Katherine and Robinson River outbreak was uncovered on Thursday but officials are still worried about how the second cluster emerged nine days later.
A woman who travelled to the Top End from Queensland after spending time in Victoria is believed to be the cause of the original outbreak
“In a sense, that just makes this mystery even stranger because we still don’t know how it went from that small first cluster to no cases for nine days,” Mr Gunner said.
“There is a very real possibility that there are people in Katherine who have COVID-19 and either don’t know it or don’t want to know.”
“The worst case scenario is that it has been silently spreading for a week and we are a day or two away from discovering a disaster.”
Northern Territory COVID cluster linked to previous outbreak
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His comments come after the Northern Territory recorded two new local COVID-19 cases on Friday bringing the Katherine and Robinson River cluster to 25.
The new infections included a 31-year-old Aboriginal man who was a close contact of a previous case and a 59-year-old Aboriginal woman.
The man had been fully vaccinated and in isolation for his full infectious period but was taken to the Royal Darwin Hospital for treatment due to underlying health issues.
Mr Gunner said all sewage testing at sites outside of Katherine and Howard Springs had come back negative.
But he confirmed the territory-wide mask mandate would remain due to “uncertainty” over possible chains of transmission.
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“The only way to get to the bottom out of this is by testing the hell out of the Katherine community,” he added.
“You’re doing great. You need to keep doing great. I know that the lines are long – I’m sorry about that but there is no way around it.”
Mr Gunner said while some people might feel “ridiculous” about going for a COVID-19 test, they were actually “being awesome” by taking a cautious approach.
He also cracked down on Katherine’s vaccination rate saying “it isn’t good enough” after only 95 doses were injected on Wednesday – the third highest day for vaccinations in the territory.
The town has a single dose rate of 82 per cent and a double dose rate of 75 per cent according to Northern Territory government data.
Fears lives could be lost amid growing COVID-19 cluster in the Northern Territory
“So for the people of Katherine – there is one clear message today. A COVID vaccine is your ticket to freedom,” Mr Gunner said.
“And a clear message to the Territory – a COVID vaccine is your ticket to keep your freedom.”
Mr Gunner acknowledged COVID-19 outbreaks in the Northern Territory had helped to motivate people to go and receive the vaccine.
“When we have had fear in the community, people have got vaccinated,” he said.
Northern Territory residents on alert as COVID cluster grows to 19 cases
“Or when there has been a distinct, direct advantage to being vaccinated, like the lockout scenario where you can live your normal life, there has been a spike for vaccination.”
The Robinson River community was expected to reach the 100 per cent single dose rate on Friday
The Top End’s single dose vaccination rate currently sits at 85.1 per cent while the double dose vaccination rate sits at 72.1 per cent

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