Major update to state’s quarantine plan

Acting Premier James Merlino made the announcement on Thursday morning just two months after Premier Daniel Andrews revealed the state would embark on the mission following several leaks of the virus from hotel quarantine.The alternative quarantine model is expected to include cabin-style purpose-built accommodation outside of Melbourne’s CBD, similar to Howard Springs near Darwin.The 500-bed facility will be built on Donnybrook Road and construction is expected to cost about $100m.It will also cost $15m to get the project ready to construction.Mr Merlino said it would take four months to build and could be open by the end of the year if the proposal was given the tick of approval in September.Mr Merlino said the Victorian government had asked the commonwealth to fund the construction and take ultimate ownership of the site.He said the preferred site was on commonwealth land next to an existing animal quarantine facility.The facility is expected to address “the changing threat of new hyper-infectious, fast-moving strains of coronavirus”, Mr Andrews said in February when he revealed the government planned to go at it alone to build the facility.Criticism of COVID-19 quarantine hotels has ramped up in recent days after the virus escaped the Mercure Hotel in Perth and sent the city into a snap three-day lockdown.The virus also escaped from the Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn quarantine hotel in February after a returning traveller infected other guests and staff.Victoria’s deadly second wave – that resulted in an eight-week stage 4 lockdown last year – also jumped from returned travellers to staff at a city hotel before spreading throughout the community.Mr Merlino said about 10 sites were identified as potential locations for the facility, and one of the tasks of the business case was to narrow that down to a single preferred site.One of the sites considered, and initially believed to be the frontrunner, was Avalon Airport.As part of the business case, a team of senior Victorian officials investigated parcels of land close to Melbourne and Avalon airports that could be used to construct the bespoke, stand-alone accommodation hubs.The sites were evaluated against a set of criteria that included proximity to a public hospital, international airport, transport and other services, as well as land area and site-specific considerations.A Melbourne Airport spokeswoman confirmed to NCA NewsWire on Tuesday that they decided not to bid for the facility due to a “commercial decision”.The government also sent a delegation to Howard Springs, which is yet to have any issues with the virus jumping from returned travellers into the community, to examine the quarantine facility as part of the business case.Mr Merlino said the facility would be built subject to the federal government’s agreement but the state government would push on with the planning work while the commonwealth considers the proposal to not lose time.The Victorian Government has provided a detailed summary of the business case to the commonwealth.“This is a commonwealth responsibility and just like Howard Springs it should be owned by the commonwealth,” Mr Merlino said.“The proposal is it would be operated by COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria.“The best time to start work on a stand-alone quarantine hub would have been 12 months ago – the second-best time is now.”A final decision on whether to proceed with construction will be made in September, pending support from the commonwealth and future insights on a range of matters, including the progress of the nation’s vaccine rollout, the efficacy of vaccines in preventing transmission, and commonwealth decisions on rules governing travel into and out of Australia.Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended hotel quarantine in its current form as high-profile political figures in Queensland and Western Australia call for a federal facility. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan have both spoken in favour of federal facilities after breaches in their own state-run quarantine programs. However, Mr Morrison hit back at such suggestions while in Darwin and pointed out hotel quarantine had a 99.99 per cent efficacy rate in containing the virus. ‘The success rate of containing breaches in the hotel quarantine network is 99.99 per cent. Now I’d say that’s a pretty impressive stat. Here in Howard Spring’s it’s 100 per cent,’ he said“The virus is going to continue to be with us for some time,” Mr Merlino said.“We’ve got a delayed rollout of the commonwealth’s vaccine program, we have a dire situation in other parts of the world. “We simply do not know what our situation will be in September. This is about giving us options, options to make our community even safer.”The master plan for the new hub includes dedicated onsite services, including catering, that will support strong infection control and prevention measures. It is also designed with the ability to be increased up to 3000 beds – at a cost of $700m – if a larger facility is determined to be required at any point.The Victorian government plans to use the new facility, designed with relocatable cabins, for future emergency accommodation needs, including ongoing quarantine arrangements, crisis accommodation or bushfire emergency [email protected]

Powered by WPeMatico

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Most Popular

To Top