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Another infected FIFO worker sparks mandatory mask order in Qld

Newmont hard hats
Newmont hard hats

A different remote employee contracted the deadly disease, prompting authorities to direct everyone to wear a face mask across southeast Queensland.

A female fly-in fly-out (FIFO) worker tested positive to coronavirus (COVID-19) after returning to the Sunshine Coast from Newmont Corporation’s Granites Gold Mine in the Tanami Desert, 540km northwest of Alice Springs.

‘Infectious’ in community

The woman transited through Brisbane Domestic Airport on June 25 and visited gyms, shopping centres and a workplace on the Sunshine Coast. She was diagnosed with COVID-19 on June 27.

“The mine worker was infectious in the community for around a day,” Queensland Health said in a public statement.

“Contact tracing is underway and any venues of concern will be added to the Queensland Health website.”

3.8M must mask-up

This infection prompted the State Government to require an estimated 3.8 million people to wear a mask in Brisbane, Ipswich, Moreton, Redlands, Logan, Somerset, the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley until 1am on July 13. Residents who visit other regions are still required to wear a mask after leaving their accommodation.

“I am calling on everyone to wear a mask and help us stop the spread of this new strain and keep our community safe,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a public statement.

“These are important measures [that] we know will work, because they have worked before.”

Mine lockdown extended

The remarks came after the Northern Territory Government extended its lockdown and mandatory mask order for Darwin, Palmerston, Litchfield and the Granites mine. Anyone who has been in those areas must isolate for a further 72 hours until 1pm on July 2.

Seven cases have already been linked to the Newmont Tanami gold mine cluster. NT Health is observing five cases at the Manigurr-Ma Camp in Howard Springs, 25km east of Darwin. The other two cases are interstate according to the Department of the NT Chief Minister and Cabinet.

“One new case of COVID-19 has been recorded, taking the total number of cases associated with the mine cluster to seven,” NT Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie said in a public statement.

“This person was undertaking quarantine at Howard Springs when their positive test result was returned and remains there under the care of NT Health.”

Evolving situation

The department is still “working around the clock” to contract-trace an estimated 900 other FIFO workers who left the mine for Darwin, Alice Springs, Brisbane and Perth between June 18 and 25. All mine workers who travelled to Alice Springs have been ordered to isolate.

“The situation in the NT is continuing to evolve, while our health teams work to undertake a large-scale contact tracing mission,” Heggie said.

“So we can work to contain and isolate the spread of this virus, the lockdown in Greater Darwin will be extended for a further 72 hours to act as a circuit-breaker while we continue our contract tracing efforts.”

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The snap decision, which affects about 192,000 people in the NT, came after a FIFO worker tested positive for COVID-19. The employee spent one night at a Brisbane quarantine hotel where he was suspected to be infected.

The 64-year-old boarded a charter plane to the mine site the following day on 18 June 2021. He travelled to Darwin on June 25 for observation at the Centre for National Resilience until his wife picked him up and drove him home to Palmerston.

The Minerals Council of Australia has commended Newmont on its “seamless and rapid response” to the outbreak.

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