NT hotel booked for Howard Springs workers

·2-min read

The Northern Territory government has leased an entire hotel to accommodate Howard Springs quarantine facility staff amid a Top End rental crisis.

The National Centre for Resilience was expected to expand to accept 2000 returned Australians a fortnight by late May or June, up from 850.

But the recruitment drive to increase the workforce is lagging amid the rental crisis that has led to a shortage of affordable housing in the NT.

In a bid to house more workers the territory government has booked out the Quest Berrimah, which is about 15km from Howard Springs on Darwin's outskirts.

Earlier in the week the NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles dodged questions about the hotel, saying it was standard procedure to accommodate visiting medical staff.

It comes as the NT government on Friday confirmed just 1098 people were quarantined at the facility. Less than 300 staff were available to work out of the 400 required to enable expansion.

"We have received over 3000 registrations of interest for health and operational staff ... and are continuing to work through these to recruit additional staff as we scale up our capabilities," a government statement said.

About 80 per cent or 320 had been recruited, it said.

But not all are ready to work, with more than 30 to undergo training set to start next week.

Howard Springs was supposed to help the tens of thousands of Australians still trapped overseas amid the pandemic.

But just 627 of those currently quarantined there have been repatriated from overseas.

The remaining 468 are domestic travellers, many arriving from Victoria, which remains in lockdown as a virus outbreak climbs to 65.

The delay in the expansion of Howard Springs - a former Inpex gas project camp capable of housing 2800 people - comes amid ongoing debate about the effectiveness of hotel quarantine, which has been the source of numerous outbreaks across Australia, including Victoria's.

Many of the repatriated Australians quarantining at the facility have travelled from India, where about 9000 people were registered as wanting to return, including 900 considered vulnerable.

Flights from the COVID-19-ravaged nation resumed on May 15 following a pause when infection rates soared among returnees at Howard Springs.

The next flight is due in seven days.

Meanwhile, NT Health has apologised after a quarantined family at Howard Springs were issued a mould-covered cot with bugs for their infant.

"The Centre for National Resilience is a repurposed facility that is being upgraded," the department said in a statement late Friday.

"A family undertaking quarantine was supplied an infant cot that was not in a suitable condition and a replacement was subsequently issued.

"NT Health acknowledges this was distressing and an apology was issued by facilities management for providing this equipment to the family."

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