NT to increase information-sharing between agencies, grant chief health officer more powers

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday March 24, 2020

Adobe

The Northern Territory government will introduce legislation that allows greater information-sharing between government agencies to help them protect the public against COVID-19.

The territory would introduce two new bills to Parliament on Tuesday, according to health minister Natasha Fyles.

One bill would amend the Public and Environmental Health Act to extend emergency declarations to last up to 90 days, rather than the current five-day limit, Fyles said, and would give the chief health officer more powers.

“What we have clearly seen through this public health emergency is that the legislation currently in place in the Northern Territory was very much designed around a natural disaster … what we have realised is that we need to extend those powers for a reasonable time period,” she said.

She noted the amendments would allow greater information-sharing between government agencies, to “make sure that those on the front line can protect Territorians and are working together”.

“This is to give our chief health officer the power to protect Territorians,” she said.

The Treasurer would also introduce a supply bill, to ensure the NT would be able to finance publicly funded operations beyond July 1, Fyles said, noting that the NT Budget would not be handed down until after October.

The health minister also confirmed the NT’s sixth person to contract COVID-19 was a 75-year-old man who recently returned from an overseas trip.

She noted those who disobey mandatory self-isolation requirements could be fined more than $60,000, and urged the public to follow health advice to protect “the most vulnerable in the community”.

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