NT cases grow, quarantine runaways found

Three people have been found after fleeing the Howard Springs quarantine facility near Darwin.
Three people have been found after fleeing the Howard Springs quarantine facility near Darwin.

The Northern Territory has detected one new COVID-19 infection after an infant from an Aboriginal community was diagnosed with the virus.

Two flight crew quarantined at The Centre for National Resilience in Howard Springs after arriving on a Qantas flight from London have also tested positive.

Genomic sequencing is underway to determine whether they have the Omicron variant of the virus.

The infant from Binjari, 330km south of Darwin, is also in the Howard Springs quarantine facility.

The case brings the current cluster of cases to 59, as wastewater testing reveals more virus traces in Katherine, 320km south of Darwin.

The town's double-dose vaccination rate reached 81 per cent on Wednesday but Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the existing lockout would continue while the positive results were investigated.

A lockout in Robinson River, 1000km southeast of Darwin, will end at 6pm local time after several rounds of testing returned negative results.

Testing in the remote Aboriginal community of Lajamanu, 900km south of Darwin, has returned negative results and the current lockdown will be eased to a lockout at midday local time.

Meanwhile, three teenagers who allegedly absconded from the Howard Springs quarantine facility near Darwin have been found and arrested.

Mr Gunner said the trio were close contacts linked to the Binjari Aboriginal community outbreak and aged 15, 16 and 17-years-old.

"We are dealing with a pretty complicated cohort ... with complex needs," he said.

"They are not positive for COVID-19 and they all took their latest tests yesterday and all returned negative results.

"The health risk to the community was very low."

Police say the group jumped the fence about 4.30am on Wednesday.

They were found about six hours later near Palmerston, 20km south of Darwin, and taken into custody.

They are likely to be charged.

The Centre for National Resilience in Howard Springs, south of Darwin, is a large, open-air former mining camp capable of quarantining about 2000 people.

NT police said it would increase surveillance at the 165-acre site and implement a program to alleviate the loneliness felt by some people quarantined there.

The facility is currently used to quarantine Australians returning from overseas, some domestic arrivals, and locals linked to an outbreak of COVID-19 which erupted across the NT last month.

An NT Health spokeswoman was unable to confirm how many people were currently quarantined at the facility.

Earlier this week, a fully-vaccinated man in his 30s quarantined at Howard Springs was diagnosed with the new Omicron variant.

He had arrived in Darwin on a repatriation flight from South Africa last week and his positive result was confirmed on Friday.

The incident comes days after a man in his 20s escaped the facility over the weekend before jumping into a waiting car and heading to Darwin's nightlife area.

Australian Associated Press