Australian authorities started removing residents in the Northern Territories to the Howard Springs quarantine camp in Darwin after nine COVID-19 cases were identified in the community of Binjari, according to a local official.
Hard lockdowns were implemented in Binjari and nearby Rockhole on Nov. 20, according to Northern Territories’ chief minister.
“Residents of Binjari and Rockhole no longer have the five reasons to leave their homes,” said Australian Northern Territory chief minister, Michael Gunner, in a Facebook post dated Nov. 20. He was referring to Australia’s five allowable reasons for people to leave their homes, including going to work or school, buying food or supplies, exercising, caregiving, or getting vaccinated.
He continued that officials have “identified five additional close contacts in Borroloola that had not previously been known to us … they have all tested negative, and they are being transferred to Howard Springs.”
In all, Gunner said Sunday eight people overall were taken to Howard Springs, reported the Guardian.
“It’s highly likely that more residents will be transferred to Howard Springs today, either as positive cases or close contacts,” Gunner continued, adding “We have already identified 38 close contacts from Binjari but that number will go up. Those 38 are being transferred now.”
According to the Northern Territory government website, if one is taken to Howard Springs or the other quarantine camp, the Alice Springs Quarantine Facility, and “do not undergo a test, you will be required to remain in quarantine a further 10 days at your own expense.”
On Monday, Police Commissioner and Territory Controller Jamie Chalker confirmed to news outlets that a 77-year-old man who was on an international repatriation flight died at the Howard Springs quarantine facility over the weekend.
“He was an international repat. Obviously, he was a 77-year-old individual,” Chalker said, local media reported. “We’re just looking at whether they had any existing other issues but certainly the initial advice is not indicating that it was a death relating to COVID.”
Over the weekend, thousands of people took to the streets in different Australian cities to demonstrate against vaccine mandates. About 85 percent of the eligible population is currently vaccinated as of Nov. 19.
In recent months, concerns have been raised about Australia’s federal and state governments’ COVID-19 emergency lockdowns and restrictions. For example, Melbourne has endured likely the longest lockdown in the world.
“There are concerns among parts of the community about some pandemic management legislation that the state government is currently trying to pass through the upper house of parliament,” Melbourne-based journalist Dana Morse told Al Jazeera. “That bill has stalled, but people are concerned about the amount of power that the state government will have if the bill passes.”
Meanwhile, earlier this month, Australia reopened its borders after having been shut down for nearly 600 days to vaccinate travelers from New Zealand. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that Australia will allow foreign visa holders to enter the country in December.
Australia closed down its international border in May of last year and allowed only restricted numbers of citizens and permanent residents to enter.