Three Teenagers Who Tested Negative For COVID Arrested In Australia For Leaving Quarantine
Passengers from Qantas flight QF110 arrive at the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility on October 23, 2020 in Darwin, Australia.
Lisa McTiernan/Getty Images

Three teenagers were arrested in Australia after climbing a fence to escape a COVID-19 quarantine compound in the middle of the night.

The teens – aged 15, 16, and 17 – had all tested negative for COVID-19 but were being quarantined because they were close contacts of people who had tested positive. They were being held in a COVID-19 quarantine facility in Howard Springs, just outside Northern Territory capital city Darwin, Australia news outlet ABC reported.

At a press conference on Thursday, local time, NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said the teens were found just outside Palmerston and had been arrested after police chased them on foot. At the time, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the teens had not had any contact with members of the community.

“The health risk to the community was very low, so that does give cause for comfort,” he said.

“The facility is housing people affected by the  Katherine region COVID-19 outbreak as well as returned travellers from repatriation flights, including a man who tested positive for the Omicron variant on Monday,” ABC reported.

Gunner said that local authorities were trying to handle “a pretty complicated cohort at the Centre for National Resilience right now, with complex needs.”

“This [is] the first time we’ve had to use the centre for large numbers of people from an Aboriginal community, but it probably won’t be the last time,” he added.

Gunner also said that isolation and quarantine has been “pretty hard for some people … used to being close to family and community.”

As ABC reported, hundreds of households and their close contacts have been sent to the facility in Darwin to quarantine. Gunner said that the teens who escaped would now likely be held longer in quarantine.

“Absconding from Howard Springs isn’t just dangerous — it is incredibly stupid,” he said. “Because we will catch you and there will be consequences.”

Days before the teens escaped quarantine, a 27-year-old man also escaped by climbing a fence. He also tested negative for COVID-19.

Due to the escapes, Chalker said the facility would implement more surveillance cameras and that people who attempted to flee would be fined thousands of dollars.

The escapes in Australia come after a couple who visited South Africa left quarantine in the Netherlands and were arrested trying to leave the country. Media reports the quarantine was voluntary, yet the couple was arrested after leaving.

Dutch outlet Het Parool reported that the couple was among 61 people who were being quarantined in the hotel after returning from South Africa and testing positive for COVID. So far, 13 of the 61 cases have been identified as the Omicron variant, which was recently discovered and is being used by governments across the world to propose new restrictions.

“It is not known which variant the couple tested positive for, or whether they were on the same flight back to Amsterdam as any of the 13 people who tested positive for the Omicron variant,” Business Insider reported. “The couple were able to leave their quarantine hotel with ease, as occupancy is voluntary and not legally enforced in the Netherlands.”

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