The Northern Territory will ease its coronavirus quarantine restrictions for new arrivals in mid-June and Chief Minister Michael Gunner says he is confident of opening borders "sooner rather than later".
The NT was declared free of the coronavirus more than a week ago when an Australian Defence Force member who contracted COVID-19 overseas was cleared.
It has been more than seven weeks since there was a locally diagnosed case.
From June 15, the Territory will transition from mandatory, monitored quarantine to mandatory self-quarantine.
That means arrivals from interstate will no longer be forced to stay in hotels selected by the NT government and pay a $2500 bill for the 14 days they are in quarantine.
Some Northern Territory residents have avoided coming home during that period or arranged to fly their children home from boarding schools and universities because they have baulked at having to place them alone in a hotel and pay for them be in quarantine.
Mandatory, monitored quarantine in hotels with a fee has been in place for two months in the NT while arrivals had been allowed to isolate in homes before that.
Ending their quarantine after 14 days will depend on returning two mandatory negative tests for COVID-19: in the first 72 hours and in the final 72 hours.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner says he recognises the tough quarantine measures had been heartbreaking for families, and hurt and angered some but it had to be done to protect people from COVID-19.
"Hard borders are the front line in our fight against coronavirus ... they are the reason we have not had community spread of coronavirus and the reason no Territorian has died from coronavirus and our businesses have opened before the rest of Australia," he said.
Police and environmental health officers will still be carrying out spot-checks on people throughout their quarantine.
The third and final stage of an easing of lockdown restrictions will be on June 5, with the removal of two-hour limits on indoor activities, reopening of bars and clubs without food being compulsory, reopening of entertainment venues and cinemas, and team sports such as football and netball being allowed.
From mid-June there would be a weekly assessment on the borders, Mr Gunner said.
"At the start of this crisis I told Territorians we were looking at a six-month battle," Mr Gunner said.
"We are way ahead of schedule and I am becoming more and more confident every day that we can ease border restrictions sooner rather than later, not next week, not next month but sooner rather than later."
Australian Associated Press