The NT has hit back at a woman’s viral interview with a UK website where she described her experience at the Howard Springs “internment camp”.
The Northern Territory government has responded to a woman’s viral interview with a UK website where she described her experience at the Howard Springs “internment camp”.
Asked to respond to the video, a spokeswoman for NT Health defended the mandatory quarantine policy and said the “strong public health response” had kept the Northern Territory largely free of Covid-19.
Hayley Hodgson moved from Melbourne to Darwin in order to escape lockdowns. She recently spent 14 days at the Howard Springs mandatory Covid-19 quine facility outside Darwin. Officially known as the Centre for National Resilience.
The 26-year old spoke to UK website UnHerd about her experience, saying she was ordered to go to the facility after a friend of hers tested positive for the virus and she was identified as a “close contact” by the number plate on her scooter.
Ms. Hodgson stated that when investigators arrived at her house and asked her if she had ever taken a Covid-19 testing, she lied and replied that she had.
“So then the police officers blocked my driveway,” she said in the video interview, which has been viewed more than 1.2 million times on YouTube since last week.
“I walked out and I said, ‘What’s going on, are you guys testing me for Covid? What’s happening?’ They said, ‘No, you’re getting taken away. You have no choice. You’re going to Howard Springs. You either come with us now, and we’ll put you in the back of the divvy van. Or you can have a choice to get a Covid cab.’”
Ms Hodgson said she told police “I don’t consent to this”, and asked why she couldn’t “just self-isolate at home”.
“And they just said, ‘We’ve just been told from higher up where to take you. And that’s all that there is,’” she said.
She was instructed to pack her bags and be released only if she is negative.
During her two-week stay, she was tested three time and each time the results were negative.
The video includes footage Ms Hodgson captured during her stay. A police officer at the facility reprimands her and threatens to fine her $5000.
“I’m gonna give you a warning, yeah?” he says to her as she sits on the balcony.
“It’s an official warning that you have to stay on your balcony and obey the rules while you’re here.”
When she argues with the officer that the rules don’t make sense, he replies that “it doesn’t have to make sense”.
“There has to be lines everywhere drawn, yeah?” he says.
“And one of the lines is you cannot leave your balcony and you cannot go to someone else. Whether it makes no sense or doesn’t seem right to you, that is the line and that’s what the law is and that’s how it goes.”
“The law? There’s a law that says that?” she replies.
“CHO direction,” he says. “There’s a CHO direction on how the behaviour must be done, especially in this area, because it’s much more highly infectious and likely to have infected people here.”
“Highly infectious when all of us people are negative?” she asks.
“So far. The risk is still very high,” he says.
Ms. Hodgson said UnHerd it felt “like you’re in prison”.
“You feel like you’ve done something wrong, it’s inhumane what they’re doing,” she said.
“You are so small, they just overpower you. And you’re literally nothing. It’s like, ‘You do what we say, or you’re in trouble, we’ll lock you up for longer.’ Yeah, they were even threatening me that if I was to do this again, ‘We will extend your time in here.’”
She said at one point when she was “distressed” and asking to be let out of her room to go for a walk or a run, facility staff instead offered her Valium to calm down.
Ms. Hodgson claimed that her two-week stay caused her to lose her casual retail job.
“They compensated me $1500 for the two weeks, and that was all,” she said.
“Now I’m currently unemployed because of this situation.”
Last month, the remote town of Katherine went into a snap 72-hour lockdown after a man tested positive for Covid-19, marking the Northern Territory’s first recorded case of community transmission since the start of the pandemic.
Darwin at the same time went into a three-day “lockout”, or lockdown only for the unvaccinated.
The NT has 42 active cases of the virus in its current locales, after it suffered its first death last week from Covid-19.
“The Northern Territory is home to the most vulnerable population of any jurisdiction in Australia,” a spokeswoman for NT Health said in a statement to news.com.au.
“The population has a significantly higher rate of comorbidities and underlying health issues than other Australian jurisdictions.
“Its demographics are more complex. There are more languages than 100 spoken and it is home for more than 70 remote Indigenous communities.
“These factors make the Territory more vulnerable to the threat of Covid-19 than other places.
“The Territory remains largely Covid free thanks largely to its strong borders and strong public health response to date.
“Our health strategy remains one of suppression at this time, while we continue to drive up our vaccination rate and ensure we are as prepared as we can be for when the virus inevitably becomes endemic.
“Under the chief health officer (CHO) Directions in the Northern Territory, anyone who is a close contact of a person with Covid-19 is required to undertake 14 days of quarantine. This includes a Covid-19 test regime. On day 5 and day 12, tests are performed. Additional testing is as needed.
“Close contacts must remain in quarantine for the full 14 days regardless of negative test results.
“This strategy has saved lives, with many close contacts having later tested positive while in quarantine, and therefore not spreading the virus throughout highly vulnerable communities.
“Anyone caught breaching CHO Directions and putting other Territorians at risk faces a $5000 fine.
“We thank the vast majority of people identified as close contacts for playing their part to keep others safe for complying with this direction.”
Many people have fled the Howard Springs facility.
A 27-year old man allegedly ran away on the 13th of his quarantine to get to the pub.
Not long after, three teens aged 15, 16 and 17 – all close contacts from a remote community near Katherine – spent the morning on the run after jumping the fence.
Jamie Chalker, Police Commissioner, encouraged the public to sympathize with the trio.
“These are young people,” he said.
“To move from remote communities where overcrowding is present to being placed in a single room, and the isolation that they may feel, we believe is somewhat of an indication.”
Chief Minister Michael Gunner however warned that the teens may be forced to resume their time in quarantine.
“Rules are rules and there are consequences,” Mr Gunner told reporters.