Australian Territory’s Plan To Quarantine Foreign Workers Costly

DARWIN, Australia — Australia’s Northern Territory Health Minister has cast doubt on an ambitious plan to quarantine foreign workers at a former Darwin mining camp used by the United States Marines.

Industry groups have urged the Commonwealth and Northern Territory government to retake the Bladin Point Worker Village as a Covid-19 quarantine facility.

The facility is currently used to quarantine Marines arriving in the Northern Territory with the US Rotational Force Darwin, but the Australian Defence Force’s lease expires on July 15.

Northern Territory Farmers Association says the camp could help alleviate the critical national worker shortage faced by the agricultural and hospitality sectors.

“All international and interstate travelers (from designated hotspots) arriving in the Northern Territory are required by law to undertake 14 days of quarantine in supervised accommodation under the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011. The Northern Territory Government determines the capacity.*

The facility is currently used to quarantine Marines arriving in the Northern Territory with the United State Rotational Force Darwin but the Australian Defence Force’s lease expires on July 15. (April Fonti/AAP Image)

Any person found breaching quarantine regulations will be liable for fines. In addition to the following information, a welcome pack will be provided on your arrival,” says the Northern Territory’s government website.

But Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles says Bladin Point isn’t a government facility, and bringing it up to specification could be tough.

“It’s a private property, so if there was to be a facility set up there, it’s more than having the chief health officer tick on off what’s there,” she said on May 6.

“(The Northern Territory government doesn’t) control who comes into Australia and we don’t own that facility, and who would pay for it?”

Fyles said it was “hugely” expensive to run a quarantine facility, and it would need to be run at the same high standard as the Howard Springs quarantine facility.

Any proposal would also need the Commonwealth’s backing and consider the potential impact on the local health system, she said.

Northern Territory Farmers chief executive Paul Burke has previously said the industry is struggling to find suitable facilities to quarantine overseas workers.

“Farmers around the country are begging politicians for a solution to the massive seasonal workforce shortage that has arisen due to the Covid-19 border closures last year,” he said.

“Without additional workers, farmers will be forced to let produce go to waste, and food prices will rise for all Australians.”

Under the proposal, various industries from around Australia will be able to use the facility to quarantine their workers.

The agricultural industry alone is facing a shortage of 20,000 workers, Burke said.

(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ojaswin Kathuria)

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