Chief Minister criticises ‘misinformation spreading online’ about NT COVID-19 outbreak

Northern Territory’s Chief Minister Michael Gunner has used a COVID-19 update press conference to denounce misinformation spread by anti-vaxxers and overseas conspiracy theorists who, he says, could harm Indigenous Territorians.Key points:Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner says there is “insane, unhinged stuff spreading online” The misinformation is coming mainly from overseas, he saysHe highlighted false rumours about the ADF during the current outbreakAt the press conference, Mr Gunner announced one new case in the outbreak and the lifting of the hard lockdown for one of the communities that, earlier in the week, had been considered most at risk.Mr Gunner also called it a “positive day” in the current outbreak, which has predominantly impacted Aboriginal Territorians.However, he singled out what he called a “huge amount of misinformation spreading online in the last few days”.”I don’t really want to lean into the lies that are being spread,” he said.”Although, given these press conferences genuinely get spliced up by international trolls: ‘Hello, conspiracy theorists overseas watching this: Please, get a life’.”Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from November 25 with a look back at our blog. Chief Minister Michael Gunner launched his speech during a press conference this morning.(ABC News: Che Chorley)A press conference-turned-impassioned performanceFor a while now, Mr Gunner has been taking bigger and more colourful swipes against people — including a US senator — who do not support his government’s broad vaccine mandate or against anti-vaxxers more generally.Today Mr Gunner took aim at “insane, unhinged stuff spreading online” that he said “overwhelmingly comes from people who don’t live here and know nothing about us”.He said that “99.9 per cent of the ‘BS’ that is flying around the internet about the Territory is coming from flogs outside the Territory — mostly America, Canada and the UK”.The latest on the NT’s COVID-19 outbreakThe Chief Minister says it is “clearly a positive day” after the Northern Territory recorded one new case of coronavirus overnight.Read more”People who have nothing better than to really make up lies about us, because their own lives are so small and so sad,” he added.Mr Gunner said bad-faith conspiracy theorists spreading rumours online would not distract from his effort “to protect the oldest continuous living culture on the planet”.”We don’t need to pay any more attention to them. We don’t need to listen to them,” he said.”We have tens of thousands of years of history, lore, custom and song to keep alive”And, if anybody thinks we will be distracted or intimidated by tinfoil hat-wearing tossers sitting in their parent’s basements in Florida, then you do not know us Territorians.”Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from November 25 with a look back at our blog.Rumours spread about army’s involvement in remote communitiesMr Gunner identified specific instances of misinformation in his speech.However, he highlighted “ridiculous, untrue rumours about the Australian Defence Force’s involvement” during the current outbreak.”As we all know, they aren’t carrying weapons. They are carrying fresh food for people,” he said. ADF personnel have been assisting with the delivery of food to people in the Katherine area.(ABC News: Jesse Thompson)He also addressed what he called “a lot of crap” being published on the internet about the Howard Springs quarantine facility.”As we all know, Howard Springs is the gold-standard facility in Australia for COVID quarantine and care. Health workers have been on the ground in locked-down communities delivering supplies.(Supplied: NT Health)”Thousands and thousands of Australians have stayed there, footy stars and rappers have stayed there,” Mr Gunner said.”It’s where our Olympians quarantine. It’s Australia’s best, which is why it’s also used for our First Australians.”Read more about the vaccine rollout:Yesterday, an Aboriginal health worker who contracted COVID-19 during the current NT outbreak, Luke Ellis, strongly criticised misinformation being spread online and into remote communities about the vaccine.”To see so much bulls**t being shared around, especially by people that have no love for Indigenous people suddenly [jumping] on the ‘genocide’ bandwagon when it suits them is f***ed,” Mr Ellis wrote in a Twitter thread.Loading”Indigenous people on the ground have continually tried to raise awareness of things affecting our people, including long-term systemic racism. To try use us as props now is disgusting.”While Mr Ellis defended the government’s evacuations of positive cases and close contacts in remote communities, he said there were legitimate criticisms to be made about some aspects of the government’s response.The government has been criticised for delays ensuring at-risk people had access to testing and the poor living conditions that made people more vulnerable to the virus when it arrived and make hard lockdowns more difficult.What do people on the ground say?Yesterday the Aboriginal communities in lockdown said misinformation being spread online about their situation was harming them.”We are in lockdown because we’re in the biggest fight of our lives,” read a statement from traditional owners through Aboriginal health service Wurli Wurlinjang.”We don’t appreciate outside people making comments that are untrue.”People on social media saying that our people are being mistreated need to realise their comments are hurting the very people they claim to care about. We want people to respect our privacy and show respect for our feelings.”The Northern Territory’s leading Aboriginal organisations, such as health groups and land councils, have backed the government’s handling of the outbreak and redoubled their efforts this week to combat vaccine hesitancy.However, their call, repeated this week, for the planned resumption of quarantine-free travel to the NT to be paused until areas of low vaccination coverage are finally addressed, has so far been ignored.On the weekend the Northern Territory government brought forward its plan to end quarantine for arrivals from COVID-19 red zones on December 20.Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 3 minutes 18 seconds3m 18s What COVID-19 travel insurance doesn’t cover you for(Emilia Terzon)What you need to know about coronavirus:Loading form…

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