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Northern Territory puts carrot in front of AFL as ‘the safest place in Australia’

“I need Australia to be corona-free, or virus-free and we probably need a vaccine.

“That’s the kind of things I’ll be looking for to lift those borders.”

With just 28 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Northern Territory, the government is already moving to ease restrictions. This includes plans to resume competitive sport with crowds from June 5.

Gunner said the AFL should consider restarting its season in the Northern Territory – “the safest place in Australia”.

“You can play a footy game, you can have a crowd,” he told Sky News on Friday.

“It’s the dry season up here in Darwin, it’s a magic place to be.

“So for me, that’s a massive attraction I would’ve thought to anybody, including the AFL.”

In announcing the Territory’s “roadmap to the new normal” – starting with the easing of restrictions that include playing non-contact outdoor sports from Friday – Gunner stressed that the NT was better placed than any other part of Australia to move out of lockdown.

“Today we make our first steps on the road to recovery,” he said.

“Because we are the safest place in Australia we can do this before anywhere else in Australia.”

Every state and territory has been considered for a potential hub base during recent weeks, including the Northern Territory, but the assumption had been crowds would still be barred.

Last month, Collingwood president Eddie McGuire declared the Northern Territory should be ruled out because “we have to be very careful of our Indigenous population, particularly in the remote areas of Australia”.

As part of the territory’s stage one of easing restrictions, residents can participate in non-contact outdoor sports such as as golf, tennis, swimming and lawn bowls. Attending a public swimming pool and using skate parks, public playgrounds and outdoor gym equipment are also permitted.

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Stage two, from 15 May, includes the opening up on cafes and restaurants as well as participating in organised outdoor training activities for sporting clubs and teams.

More significant lifting of restrictions are set to happen in early June, including attending sporting events with an “approved seating configuration” and spectators capped at 500.

Should an event seek to cater for more than 500 spectators they are required to have a separately approved COVID-19 safety plan.

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