Hundreds of Australians are spending this Christmas in quarantine, either in hotel rooms or isolated between the walls of their own homes.
But for the more than 500 people recently repatriated to the Northern Territory from Europe and India, efforts are being made to give them the best possible Christmas, given the conditions – from wrapped gifts to plum pudding to fresh NT Tiger prawns.
Teams from the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Center were busy packing gift bags for those currently serving at the Howard Springs Quarantine Center on the outskirts of Darwin.
« I couldn’t imagine being in quarantine and being out of the family to celebrate Christmas and not have the usual festivities, » said team leader Bronwyn Dalton.
« We just wanted to offer these residents something to put a smile on their face and something to smile about. «
More than 100 children are among the international comers, Ms. Dalton said they would each receive a specially purchased gift.
« We got permission to buy every child a Christmas present, we had a budget, and we went to the stores, » said Ms. Dalton.
One of those who will be quarantined at the tropical facility for Christmas is the mother of two Bronwen Seal, who is returning to Geelong after 14 years to provide security for her children’s education.
« It’s been a really challenging year in many ways and we’re just so relieved to be back in Australia, » said Ms. Seal.
After a tumultuous 2020 trying to offer her family a route home from the Middle East via Frankfurt, Germany, she said a Christmas in Howard Springs was one for the books.
« To be honest, I think it will be one of the most memorable Christmass we’ve ever had, » said Ms. Seal.
« The storms, the rain, the heat, we came from cold Amman and we are just grateful to be here in Darwin.
« The only real problem we have is that unfortunately we have to have our last COVID-19 test on Christmas Day, but that goes without saying. «
The menu for the international arrivals waking up at Howard Springs for Christmas isn’t all that different from a fancy Smorgasbord. From tiger prawn starters to baked ham or turkey for lunch to a cockatoo plum pudding for dessert with a cherry on top.
Employees at NT company Karen Sheldon Catering worked overtime to prepare the party in time for the occasion.
« We appreciate the wonderful Australians returning home and we are very excited to be part of this movement to bring them home, » said Ms. Sheldon.
« We know you will be isolated and lonely on this special Christmas day, so we’ll do our best to give you a real Australian Christmas. «
Howard Springs international arrivals benefit from Commonwealth cash to fund their Christmas booty.
However, more than 100 of their colleagues in another part of the facility who have come to Darwin from COVID-19 hotspots in Sydney do not have access to the same tariff.
The NT government said that domestic comers, many of whom were in the air when the hotspot was declared, would still receive special service.
« All people in quarantine are served a Christmas lunch, » said Anna Grosvenor, NT government spokeswoman.
« The staff will do their best to make the day festive. However, special activities or events are restricted because the infection control measures required for quarantine must be followed. «
This service may contain material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service that is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced.
AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time, 10 hours before GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
Australia, quarantine, Christmas day
World news – AU – Aussies returned to celebrate an unforgettable Christmas in the NT coronavirus quarantine
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