Coronavirus: what life is like inside an Australian quarantine camp after being trapped in Wuhan
- Australia has brought 532 people out of China on two direct flights and one via New Zealand, but many more remain in Wuhan waiting for further evacuations
- The coronavirus has claimed over 1,000 lives, while infections have risen to more than 40,000 worldwide, with large parts of China still on lockdown
Australian businessman Stanley was finally able to walk outside without fear, the first time in two weeks he had been granted this simple task which now feels like a luxury.
“I feel safe now, and relieved. The temperature [in Darwin] is high and it’s very sunny. The warmer weather is good for virus control and I don’t think there will be an outbreak here,” he told the South China Morning Post.
“Worse comes to worse, if I do get sick, I know I will get good treatment in Australia.”
He had arrived in Wuhan on January 20 to celebrate the Lunar New Year with his 60-year-old parents only to be trapped three days later when the city was locked down, meaning he had no chance of returning on his scheduled commercial flight out of the city on January 27.
“For two weeks, my family and I were trapped in our apartment. All we could do was watch news of the outbreak on TV, hoping things would turn around,” he added.
“They all said there was no point staying there. If anyone got sick, they would be looked after by the government and placed in isolation. I would be of no help,” he said.
He was particularly concerned for his mother, who had an operation last year and remains fragile.
He rang his parents on Monday from the Munigurr-ma camping facility in Howard Springs, about 25km outside Darwin.
“It was business as usual in Wuhan. They got up, cooked, watched some television and spoke to their friends on the phone,” he said. “They were bored beyond belief.”
They had only been out of their flat once in the past two weeks to stock up on food, he said.
“We were all too afraid to go out,” Stanley added.
He said many evacuees were exhausted when they arrived in Darwin, but there was a “nice lunch at the airport” to welcome them home.
The transfer to the Munigurr-ma facility – where the evacuees will be quarantined for 14 days – took longer than expected, while there were also delays in the delivery of food and checking into the facility.
“I was OK with it, but there were some kids who were very tired,” he said.
“Today was not too bad, food was provided on time. We grabbed our breakfast and lunchboxes and went back to our rooms. It seems everyone is happy with the arrangement.”
On Monday, the Australian government reassured the public that the all 266 passengers evacuated to Darwin were healthy, however, they said there were no plans for a third direct evacuation flight after a an initial 243 were sent to an immigration detention centre on a remote island last week.
The coronavirus has claimed over 1,000 lives, while infections have risen to more than 40,000 worldwide. A World Health Organisation team of international experts landed in China on Monday to assist in investigations concerning the control of the outbreak.
Australia has now evacuated a total of 532 people out of Wuhan on two direct Qantas flights and one indirect flight via New Zealand, but many more remain in Wuhan waiting to be brought back home.
“These 200 odd people [in Darwin] are well, none of them are coughing or sneezing,” Northern Territory acting chief health officer Dianne Stephens said at a press conference in Darwin on Monday.
“There were also no infections in the Christmas Island cohort either and they are halfway through their quarantine.
“The word airborne has been used [to describe the possible transmission of the virus] … we have investigated [and found] that it is a misused word. This is a droplet-borne disease. There is no evidence in Australia or globally that it travels in the air. It is not taken up by mosquitoes or insects.
“I know what the truth is and there is a lot of misinformation in the media.”
Stephens also said the 15 people who were infected with the coronavirus in Australia contracted the illness in Wuhan, not in Australia.
Abigail Trewin, director of disaster preparedness and response at the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, confirmed on Monday the Australians who arrived on Sunday morning were grateful to be home.
“What I saw was over 200 Aussies, who were tired, but the kids were super excited to be on Aussie soil. I heard repeated thank yous,” she said. “Many of the kids were bright and sparky.”
Britain’s second and last flight out of Wuhan arrived at RAF Brize Norton with 200 passengers on Sunday, while Canada has sent a second evacuation flight to Wuhan.
Japan has chartered four flights out of Wuhan evacuating 763 of its citizens, while it is negotiating with China to move the remaining Japanese nationals to other regions which still have regular flights to Japan.