The Northern Territory has detected 11 new COVID-19 infections after an infected woman from a locked-down community evaded police and travelled to a nearby town.
It brings the cluster to 51 cases, with five people from the Binjari Aboriginal community and two residents from Robinson River testing positive.
Three children from Katherine, 320km south of Darwin, and their father were also diagnosed with the virus, Chief Minister Michael Gunner says.
One of the cases, a Binjari woman, sneaked past police and fled the locked down community on Tuesday night.
She travelled about 10km in a taxi to Katherine with three other people before being found at a gathering of 11 people on Wednesday morning.
"Unfortunately, someone has got out and we now have to do a fresh lot of tracing," Mr Gunner told reporters.
"The woman did not know she had COVID-19.
"She was at large in Katherine and she was infectious."
Katherine is also locked down and the group has been transferred to the Centre of National Resilience quarantine facility.
"Acting illegally to evade the hard lockdown is so dangerous," Mr Gunner said.
Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said the taxi driver had also been deemed a close contact and was isolating.
The group called the taxi from a caravan park near to the community and it may also become an exposure site.
"What it's done is immediately impacted 12 lives, if not several thousand people who live in Katherine," he said.
The woman and the three other people who left Binjari are likely to be fined $5024 each.
More police have been tasked with ensuring no one else leaves the locked-down community.
Positive cases linked to the woman are expected as contact tracing ramps up.
Mr Chalker said it was likely to prolong the lockdown in the two communities.
"This has been a significant step backwards," he said.
More exposure sites have been added, including Katherine's McDonald's, where four positive cases were at the store on November 13 at the same time.
"This was McHappy Day. It was very busy," Mr Gunner said.
Katherine has been locked down since November 15, with authorities saying it's likely to continue into December due to the infected woman, who spent more than 12 hours in the community.
The outbreak started when an infected woman illegally entered the NT in late October.
The 21-year-old lied on her border entry form before travelling from Cairns to Darwin after visiting Victoria, where she contracted the virus.
She infected a man in Darwin before the virus spread to Katherine, then the Aboriginal communities of Robinson River and Binjari.
The majority of those infected are Indigenous Territorians. Nine are aged under 12 years. Four people are in hospital, all are Aboriginal.
Binjari, 330km south of Darwin, and nearby Rockhole Aboriginal community remain under extreme lockdown orders.
About 300 residents are only allowed to leave their homes in an emergency or for medical treatment. Food and other supplies are being delivered with the help of the Australian Defence Force.
Restrictions have eased at Robinson River, 1000km southeast of Darwin, in recent days, with the lockdown downgraded to a lockout of unvaccinated people.
Australian Associated Press
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