Coronavirus evacuees leave Darwin facility after 'vacation-like' quarantine

Brian Leong and Zilong Long on Sunday. Source: Aneeta Bhole

The fortnight-long quarantine period for the second group of Wuhan evacuees has come to an end.

For a group of Australians evacuated from the epicentre of the coronavirus in China, an unexpectedly long trip is coming to an end.

On Sunday, 266 people are leaving the Howard Springs quarantine camp near Darwin, after they left Wuhan earlier this month.

They were the second group of Australians flown out of Wuhan and were required to spend 14 days in quarantine before returning to their home towns.


A number of evacuees spoke to reporters as they were leaving Howard Springs.

"I'm so relieved, it's been such a unique ordeal, so I'm really excited to be coming home," Brian Leong said.

Mr Leong arrived in Wuhan on 22 January to visit his fiancee's family for Lunar New Year and "didn't anticipate an entire city of 11 million" would go into lockdown days after.

"Initially, I had my concerns about being in the facility … but the people here have been really supportive and really lovely."

Fellow evacuee Zilong Long went as far as saying "it was like a small vacation for me and my family".

Felicity He (second from right) and her family.
Felicity He (second from right) and her family.
Aneeta Bhole

Thirteen-year-old Felicity He said she was "really excited because I want to sleep in my own bed in my own room".

"It wasn't scary [being evacuated], I was just excited to go back to Australia."

She too had a glowing review of her time in the NT, saying she was not fussed about spending her 13th birthday in quarantine.

"The food was really good."

Asked about his plans now that he's out of quarantine, evacuee Owen Wang said he would "probably get a haircut and have some nice seafood".

Some of the food on offer inside the facility.
Some of the food on offer inside the facility.

Authorities said the process had all gone smoothly.

Abigail Trewin of the Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT) said, "we're just so pleased that everyone is well, happy and able to return to their home states".

While Colin Drysdale of Australian Border Force said, "our quests have displayed fantastic levels of resilience, community spirit and optimism throughout their stay".

"They have been wonderful guests," he said.

Artworks completed by children inside the facility.
Artworks completed by children inside the facility.

Evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan are still facing several more days of quarantine at the camp.

Seven cases have now been confirmed among the group of 164, who are also being kept at the facility near Darwin after leaving the virus-hit ship in Yokohama on Thursday.

It brings the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country to 23, including 10 people who have recovered from the illness.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told reporters on Sunday "currently we are well contained".

Asked for his advice to Australians, Mr Murphy said "go about your normal business".

"There is no community transmission of this virus in Australia, there is no risk to people walking around the streets, walking in the shopping centres."

"The only risk is being in contact with people who have come from an area where there is high transmission." 

Additional reporting: AAP

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