NT eases lockdown as pubs re-open

The Northern Territory has lifted a range of restrictions but social distancing is still required.
The Northern Territory has lifted a range of restrictions but social distancing is still required.

After a 53-day shutdown, the Northern Territory's pubs reopened at noon on Friday - and two English barramundi fishermen were waiting outside Darwin's Cavenagh Hotel at 11.55am.

They only wanted to be known as Luke and Rob and were the first to grab a beer at the iconic "Cav".

Luke arrived in Darwin from England on one of the last overseas flights into the country around March 23, when the coronavirus pandemic lockdown was imposed and the NT shut its borders.

"This is my first pint in Australia," said a beaming Luke.

"I literally arrived on the day the borders closed, did my quarantine in a hotel I paid for.

"Two weeks after quarantine finished my mate Rob and I found a job on the boats, we only arrived back to land a few days ago."

The Cav was filling up on Friday with patrons happy to be allowed out and was possibly busier than usual, although it is not unknown for Darwin's public servants to knock off early at the end of the week.

The Territory became the first jurisdiction to ease lockdown laws since the deadly global pandemic, with the reopening on Friday of affected businesses such as restaurants, cafes, pubs, gyms and more and places of worship.

Indoor activities have a two-hour time limit until further easing on June 5.

"We thought we would come here to support locals, for businesses it has been pretty tough being shut down," said Darwin resident Jaime Bradford, who went to the Cav with colleagues.

Across the road at the Roma Bar cafe, Sharon McCann said she didn't realise walking into her regular coffee haunt where there were other people around would "make her so happy".

Sharon was with her sister Trish, whose daughter Kathleen and one year old granddaughter Anne-Marie flew to Darwin from Melbourne when Kathleen was stood down from her Qantas pilot job.

"We figured it would be the safest place with the baby and the ability to go to the beach," Kathleen said.

Roma Bar co-owner Phoebe Breyer-Menke said she was excited to be open to dine-in customers and said the "pressures" of the last couple of months during lockdown had been insane but she had discovered abilities and strengths.

"I was able to think: "No I'm not okay with having to cut off staff who have been with us for 10 years, I'm going to find a way to sell our food still which is where we got freezer packs."

She said she put 80 per cent of staff back on.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said 3000 people would be back in work on Friday and allowing businesses to reopen was about confidence in the midst of an economic crisis.

"It is important for Territorians and businesses that we are back in business, that things are opening up and they can see a pathway out, some hope and they're confident to re-employ people," he told reporters.

The Territory has had 30 coronavirus cases but no community transmission or deaths.

Australian Associated Press