Shipping containers and meatworks could be needed as mass mortuaries to cope with the number of deaths in a COVID-19 outbreak worst-case scenario in the Northern Territory, the Chief Health Officer warned.
It was part of a dire warning to Northern Territorians as vaccination rates remain low in some areas, particularly in remote Aboriginal communities.
"If we don't have controls in place - as in restriction of movement and people aren't vaccinated - then we will lose lives," Dr Hugh Heggie said at a press conference
"... we will need to use things like shipping containers and meatworks as mass mortuaries."
Dr Heggie said that the Territory, which had been trending up in terms of vaccination, had slumped by comparison with the ACT, which had a similar population size.
"Who is going to take responsibility for the first death in the Territory? Who is going to take the responsibility for the first Aboriginal death in the Territory?" an emotional Dr Hugh Heggie asked.
He later, when questioned, said it was anybody who wasn't vaccinated.
Dr Heggie laid part of the blame for vaccine hesitancy at the feet of influences from the US anti-vaxxer lobby and faith organizations.
"They are using social media, particularly in Aboriginal communities, and they have done this before when we had the measles outbreak, That there's a whole explanation that people won't get it, God will save us," he said.
"I said that maybe God sent us the immunization, the vaccine, to help us."
He said that the Pope had recently said that getting the vaccine - particularly before Christmas - was a gift from God.
"This is a chance for us to save ourselves, " Dr Heggie said.
"How many people do you know have high blood pressure, somebody who is particularly overweight, because they're vulnerabilities. Anybody who has asthma. These are sometimes very young people, even.
A new set of directions have been released for mandatory vaccination in the Territory, which included anybody with people-facing roles, those working with the vulnerable and in essential industries.
Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said workers who breached the Chief Health Officer's new directions were putting everybody at risk.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"The preferred posture ... is clearly to be double vaccinated," he said. "We don't want to move into a strict enforcement model, but the reality of it is enforcement, and it has to flow and it has to flow," he said.
"And it has to flow because the trade off is, literally, my people literally walking around collecting bodies who have died from COVID.
"And that's a very real conversation that myself and the Chief Health Officer have had about what does our worst-case scenario look like.
"I don't want that for my officers. I don't want that for the ambulance services. I don't want that for my firies. I don't want that for our health clinics and the personnel who live and work out at those remote communities."
He said the sad reality was that Delta was mobile and they were starting to monitor some trends in domestic arrivals.
"What we need to make sure is that we are monitoring any COVID positivity in our domestic arrivals," Mr Chalker said.
This was particularly in light of the opening up of New South Wales and, shortly, Victoria after lockdowns and restrictions.
"The very real risk of Delta penetrating into the NT, please be assured, is not contained to 30 days away. It is not contained to the 24 December," he said.
"It could happen with the next 24 hours. It could already be here."