Genomic testing on two positive COVID-19 cases among an international military cohort in Darwin shows they are not linked to the mutant UK strain of the virus, as it emerged that two more repatriated Australians in quarantine in the Top End have tested positive.
- There have been more than 60 positive cases on repatriation flights to Darwin since October
- Genomic testing has ruled out highly transmissible mutations of the virus among a foreign military cohort
- A Darwin hotel where the foreign officials are staying has been listed as a quarantine facility, two weeks after the group arrived
The latest cases include a 30-year-old woman who flew on a repatriation flight from London to Darwin on January 16, and a 16-month-old girl who arrived from India on January 19.
Both are asymptomatic and remain under the care of an Australian Medical Assistance Team at the international section of the Howard Springs quarantine centre, on the outskirts of Darwin.
To date, 61 positive cases have been reported among the 3,054 international passengers to arrive in the Top End since the government-arranged repatriation flights began in late October.
Genomic testing on two other positive cases — which were detected last week among a group of foreign military personnel and their families staying at the Travelodge hotel in Darwin’s CBD — show they are not connected with highly-transmissible mutations of the virus, including the UK variant.
The use of the inner-city hotel as a quarantine facility for the military arrivals has been the subject of significant criticism from health groups, including the Australian Medical Association, the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT and the Darwin-based Danila Dilba Health Service.
They have accused health authorities of putting vulnerable people in Darwin’s CBD at risk, and say the cohort should have been sent to the government-run Howard Springs facility, which has been praised as the gold standard of infection control in Australia.
So far, three of the almost 300 arrivals staying at the Travelodge have tested positive to COVID-19, and around 80 have completed their mandatory 14-day stay at the hotel.
Despite many of the foreign officials arriving at the hotel at the start of January, it took a further two weeks before the Travelodge was officially prescribed by the NT Chief Health Officer as a quarantine facility.
The NT Health Department has downplayed the hotel’s delayed designation as a quarantine centre, saying it was simply an administrative procedure that formalises its use.
“All procedures and processes have been followed in line with Chief Health Officer Directions,” a spokesperson said.
“Strict infection control measures have been implemented and continue to be adhered to, as per NT Health requirements.
“No person can just leave mandatory quarantine and no person, in this instance, has left quarantine before their 14 days was completed.”
The NT Government has also approved the Juno Centre in Tennant Creek as an isolation centre if the Todd facility in Alice Springs reaches capacity.
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