Fifteen minutes after border closure, Victorians forced into NT quarantine

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Victorian plane passengers who landed in Darwin 15 minutes after expanded coronavirus restrictions came into force have been sent into mandatory quarantine.

The passengers touched down in the Northern Territory capital about 12.15pm on Thursday – the day after NT’s acting Chief Health Officer Charles Pain announced that all of Victoria would be considered a hotspot, rather than just Greater Melbourne and Bendigo.

An NT health department spokeswoman said 15 people who landed from Melbourne were transferred to Howard Springs to undertake mandatory supervised quarantine, in line with the CHO direction.

A handful of other passengers on the Qantas QF836 flight were transiting in Melbourne and did not have to quarantine.

Dr Pain changed Victoria’s classification on Wednesday night, declaring the whole of Victoria a hotspot in response to its COVID-19 outbreak and wide distribution of exposure sites.

The announcement meant that from midday on Thursday, anyone arriving in the NT from Victoria would have to enter 14 days’ quarantine in Alice Springs or Howard Springs.

”This decision has been made taking into account the extensive growth in the number of exposure sites across Victoria,” Dr Pain said.

“We need to be extra cautious at this time, particularly in response to the increased travel across Australia and the many thousands of visitors expected to come to the Territory this month.”

A Qantas spokeswoman said passengers affected by border restrictions were offered the option to change travel dates or receive flight credit.

“We contact passengers prior to travel advising them to familiarise themselves with any COVID-19 government measures that may impact their travel,” she said.

The news means that 13-year-old Casey Johnston Smith, a Yanyuwa girl who attends the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School in Richmond, will have to spend two weeks in Howard Springs in order to go home to the remote Vanderlin Island, off the coast of the Northern Territory, for the school holidays from next week.

Her father, Chris Smith, said safety measures were necessary to keep vulnerable people safe.

“Honestly, you would not want one case of COVID to hit the town that I live in or any remote Aboriginal town because it would just decimate the population,” Mr Smith said.

He wasn’t worried about Casey doing two weeks of quarantine alone and said he hoped she’d take the opportunity to get on top of her school work or learn to sing or play an instrument.

“Talking to her [Wednesday] night, she’s fine,” Mr Smith said. “We can only try and look at the positive side of things in life.”

With Rachel Eddie

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