‘Unique ordeal’: Wuhan evacuees head home after 14 days quarantined in Darwin

Darwin 0800

More than 260 Australians evacuated from Wuhan and placed in quarantine for 14 days have been released from a facility in Howard Springs near Darwin.

Key points:

  • More than 430 people have been taken to the Darwin facility, some from Wuhan and some from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan
  • There were 77 children and 11 babies among those flown in on the second flight from the virus epicentre
  • The Howard Springs camp is about 30 kilometres south-east of Darwin’s CBD

Buses collected the evacuees on Sunday morning and took them to Darwin’s airport for their respective flights home.

The 164 Australians evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship remain in quarantine at the facility.

So far, seven Australian passengers from that ship have tested positive for COVID-19.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said those seven patients were in a stable condition.

“None of them will need particularly high-level medical treatment at the moment, but they’ll be monitored and tested and isolated until they’re well and have cleared the virus,” he said.

Among Sunday’s 266 departing evacuees were 77 children and 11 babies, flown in from the coronavirus epicentre in China earlier this month.

The flight was initially delayed while waiting for approval from Chinese authorities.

It was the second Qantas flight to take Australians out of Wuhan.

The first planeload of 241 evacuees was taken to Christmas Island while another flight, organised by New Zealand authorities, carried about 50 Australians to Christmas Island via Auckland.


Australians evacuated from Wuhan head home from Darwin airport after their quarantine. (ABC: Sowaibah Hanifie)

‘It’s like a small vacation for me’

Among the evacuees who left on Sunday were Brian Leng and Zilong Long.

Mr Leng, from Melbourne, said he was glad he made the decision to get on the evacuation flight.


Brian Leng and Zilong Long left the quarantine facility on Sunday. (ABC News: Kate Ashton)

“So excited, so relieved, it’s been such a unique ordeal, so to be coming home is really exciting,” he said.

“The people are really supportive and really lovely and accommodate pretty much all your needs, so in hindsight really happy to have made the decision to take this evacuation flight.”

Mr Long, also from Melbourne, said it was difficult at the start but after a few days “everything becomes better”.

“It’s like a small vacation for me,” he said.


The buses from Howard Springs will take evacuees to the airport. (ABC News: Kate Ashton)


One of the 266 people to be flown home on Sunday. (ABC: Sowaibah Hanifie)

They had been staying in a facility, about 30 kilometres south-east of Darwin’s CBD, that once housed 3,500 people who were building Inpex’s $55 billion gas plant on Darwin Harbour.

What you need to know
Here’s a rundown of all the facts about coronavirus, and how you can make sure you’re protected.

A video of the site, released by the Department of Home Affairs, showed its rooms and common facilities, including a pool, indoor basketball court and a canteen area with a pool table and dartboards.

Abigail Trewin from the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre has been working at the Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AusMAT) incident command at the Howard Springs camp.

Ms Trewin said some of those returning to their home states on Sunday enjoyed their time in quarantine so much they wanted to stay.

“It’s been a journey that we’ve taken together and we’re just so pleased that everyone is well and happy and able to return to their home states,” she said.

“The group in there have been wonderful to work with, live with, to entertain, to feed.”

Video: Inside the Manigurr-ma residential village in Howard Springs where coronavirus evacuees have stayed.

(ABC News)

More on the coronavirus outbreak:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news