Queensland’s push for remote mining camps to host all international arrivals into Australia appears dead in the water after key state premiers opposed the plan.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wants regional facilities to replace hotel quarantine after six people tested positive for the highly contagious UK strain of the virus at Brisbane’s Grand Chancellor hotel.
She argues it is too dangerous to station international arrivals in capital city centres and will raise the issue at the next national cabinet meeting on 22 January.
But NSW will stick with Sydney hotel quarantine, while Western Australia also ruled out mining camps for the two-week isolation period.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it would not be feasible for the 3500 staff working in the state’s hotel quarantine system to be moved to regional camps.
“NSW certainly doesn’t see the benefit for us in following that path,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“On the basis of less than, I think it’s three incidences now over the last year, it would not be logical for us to move that arrangement out of Sydney.”
WA Premier Mark McGowan has resurrected his plan to use immigration detention centres like Christmas Island despite the federal government rejecting it last year.
“Clearly with the British strain, that’s something we should reconsider,” he said.
“Those facilities are available and there are experienced staff that can deal with these matters.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he had no plans to change his state’s quarantine system but acknowledged limits on CBD hotels.
“If Annastacia can find another facility that she can make work, then that’s fine, we always look at different options, particularly when you’re talking about volume,” he said.
Former health department boss Jane Halton, who reviewed hotel quarantine, said there were a range of factors to weigh up around using regional mining camps.
“Can we make sure that people stay safe? Can you transport them safely and effectively from their point of arrival?” she told the ABC.
“A lot of these camps aren’t near the kind of airports where people would arrive into Australia.
“What risk does there accrue in moving people from an international airport to some kind of remoter region?”
Australia recorded no local transmission of coronavirus on Thursday prompting Prime Minister Scott Morrison to congratulate the nation.
“Please keep being #COVIDSafe and following the advice of local health authorities around wearing masks,” he tweeted.
Health Minister Greg Hunt compared Australia’s numbers with the 16,000 deaths and 750,000 cases recorded worldwide on Thursday.
“It is a deep reminder of what we have achieved as a nation in saving lives and protecting lives,” he said.
States are closely monitoring people who stayed at the Grand Chancellor, which has now closed as a quarantine facility.
There are 18 people isolating in Victoria after staying at the hotel, 14 in Tasmania, 10 in NSW and six in WA.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.
Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania.