Horror stories of unhygienic conditions, little to no fresh air, food not arriving, and promised COVID-19 tests never being conducted is an everyday commotion surrounding some Australian quarantining facilities.
But up in the Top End, guests are making the most of their two-week stay in the Northern Territory’s quarantine facility.
Anyone entering the NT from a COVID-19 hotspot is required to fulfil a 14-day lockdown in the Manigurr-ma Village – roughly a 25-minute drive from Darwin’s CBD.
The Top End has laid claim to having the best quarantine facility in Australia. (9News)
The site was erected for fly-in, fly-out natural gas workers but hadn’t been utilised until the pandemic hit.
The 14-day stay may be the only way out of stage four lockdown for Victorians.
But for those hoping to holiday in the NT and beyond will need a better reason to escape, finding themselves being turned back by Melbourne Airport security.
Visitors arriving at the Howard Springs quarantine facility are greeted by a flurry of nurses, police and welfare members before having their temperatures checked and being shown to their new cabin-style homes.
“When we arrived a policeman got on the bus and jovially yelled, ‘Welcome to Howard Springs!'” a family told 9News.
The site is nearly one-third full with up to 700 people occupying some 3000 beds across the old mining camp.
Those staying inside are allowed to venture beyond their cabins for two 20-minute slots of exercise a day.
Some choose to walk, others run; some even gather to do yoga.
“I wake up every day in paradise,” Darren Dennis joked.
“It hasn’t been as hard as what you would expect compared to Melbourne when you’re being locked down in a hotel with no fresh air. “It’s actually been quite relaxing.”
Residents say there’s good camaraderie between the people in lockdown. (9News)
Mr Dennis, along with his two work colleagues, Pat and Michael, are on a regular work trip visiting oil and gas sites across Australia to conduct specialised maintenance. What would typically a two or three-week job has now turned into a two-month-long trip over multiple sites.
There’s also a strong contingent of British workers fleeing Melbourne in search of a job.
Manchester-born Jordan Roberts arrived in Melbourne the day Victoria’s first lockdown began.
“We’ve only got a short time here (in Australia) and people don’t want to waste their visas while stuck in lockdown,” Mr Roberts said.
“I was working through the lockdowns on a construction site but once the second round of restrictions hit, it wasn’t worth it anymore.”
A number of people who fled Melbourne ahead of its latest restrictions were forced into NT quarantine. (9News)
Since opening the new operations in February, there have been zero accounts of community transmission leaking out of the facility. Residents have made the formerly abandoned site into a haven of activity and interaction – while respectfully heeding to COVID-safe guidelines.
Although conditions may be far more welcoming for anyone undertaking quarantine, being cooped up in a facility for two weeks hasn’t been lost on residents either.
“Not being able to see family and loved ones for a longer period is hard. This trip would have been three weeks of work but we’ve combined lots of work and now it’s seven or eight – which is uncommon for us,” Mr Dennis said.
“It hasn’t been anything special but hasn’t been bad either.”