I am a Territorian living within 20 kilometres from the Howard Springs quarantine centre. Until recently I have had every confidence in those staffing the centre being able to contain Covid-19 and its variants. Since July 17 2020, 364,829 persons from overseas have returned by air to Darwin and undertaken quarantine. International travellers have been competently managed by Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT). These teams are globally verified as ‘the best’ when it comes to urgent medical response.

On May 3, AUSMAT control of returning travellers was handed over to the NT Government. The centre is now being managed by the NT Health Department under the oversight of NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker. There is a need for 400 new staff to be recruited and trained. To date, only 160 persons have been recruited. Additionally, specialist training is a protracted process, taking longer than five minutes.

Prime Minister Morrison will have all repatriation flights from India coming into Australia via Darwin. Flights are due to recommence on May 15. The idea of Howard Springs managing a virulent viral surge with a new team still learning to work together is deeply worrying. An escape of the virus into the NT community with its 40% indigenous population would be catastrophic. Along with many Territorians, my level of concern is reaching new heights.

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