Thousands of Australians are taking advantage of a quarantine loophole to avoid COVID-19 restrictions and state border closures.
Since July 17, 62,974 people have entered the Northern Territory, which has zero active coronavirus cases.
The figure is equivalent to a quarter of the population in Australia’s Top End, or almost half Darwin’s population.
Interstate travellers are only required to undertake two weeks of quarantine in the NT if they’re travelling from or through a declared hotspot.
Once the two weeks is up, they are then free to travel anywhere in Australia.
Territory chief minister Michael Gunner said there were 700 COVID refugees in quarantine at Howard Springs (pictured)
Mr Gunner said many have described the facility as ‘great’ and ‘better than a hotel’. Pictured: Two women at Howard Springs (left) and buildings at the facility (right)
The mandatory stay at Howards Spring costs $2,500 per person or $5,000 for a family of two or more sharing the accommodation.
Many are fleeing to the Territory to wait out the pandemic or quarantine before heading to the AFL finals in Queensland.
The facility, just south-west of Darwin, has received the tick of approval from many passing through.
Some have described it as ‘great’ and ‘better than a hotel’, according to chief minister Michael Gunner.
He labelled the NT as ‘the safest place in Australia’ and said there were currently 700 people in quarantine at Howard Springs.
Two Victorian teachers who fled their home state told Mr Gunner they ‘loved it’, and were working remotely.
‘So sorry Dan, we’re taking your Victorians, this is a much better place to live and she’s relocated to the Territory to teach her primary school kids,’ Mr Gunner told news.com.au.
Australians arriving in the Northern Territory can travel anywhere else in the country once they clear the 14-day quarantine. Pictured: People arriving at an airport
A Darwin resident added: ‘My new housemate is a Victorian public servant who has moved here for a month without telling her boss. They assume she is working from home, which she is. From my house!’
‘If you’re safe, you’re welcome here and we want you here. We have great weather, great people and no coronavirus,’ Mr Gunner said.
One of the COVID refugees staying at Howard Springs is Australian hip-hop artist Illy, who celebrated his birthday on site on Sunday.
In a post the 35-year-old uploaded to Facebook, Illy can be seen sprawlled out on a bed with balloons and tinsel to celebrate the occasion.
His post read: ‘birthdays in quarantine hit different.’
One of the COVID refugees staying at Howard Springs is Australian hip-hop artist Illy (pictured), who celebrated his birthday on site on Sunday
The rapper, who released his new album Loose Ends in July, flew up from Victoria to play at Rebound – taking place at the Darwin Ski Club – on October 3.
Illy will be playing alongside acts including Lime Cordiale, Hot Dub Time Machne and Hermitude.
‘This time last week I got a last minute offer to play a show. An actual f**king show, holy sh*t. The catch – gotta do 2 weeks of quarantine first. Rough deal right. Maybe normally, but what the f**k is normal in 2020,’ he wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.
‘Amongst everything else, it’s been the longest space between shows since my first time on stage. That’s been my life forever. I miss it. So, hi Darwin, live from day 1 of quarantine. See you at Rebound, October 3. Single tear.’
Illy’s celebratory post in COVID-19 quarantine even attracted a shout-out from Mr Gunner.
‘We’re seeing heaps of Australians from across the country come to the Territory, quarantine for 2 weeks to keep our community safe, and then enjoy our great Territory lifestyle,’ Mr Gunenr said in a Facebook post.
‘And I’m glad it means contributing to our music scene too.
‘We’re all very excited to have you up here to play at REBOUND 2020 in October. Here’s to the Territory.’
The rapper (pictured), who released his new album Loose Ends in July, flew up from Victoria to play at Rebound – taking place at the Darwin Ski Club – on October 3