Victoria’s proposed COVID-19 quarantine facility is dependent on federal funding and will not be ready until the end of the year.
The state government has confirmed that the preferred site for the facility will be next to the pet quarantine center after entering Mickleham, a Commonwealth site about 40 kilometers north of Melbourne.
The 500-bed facility would cost around $ 200 million to build, with a possible expansion to 3,000 beds bringing the cost to $ 700 million.
The state government has committed to pay approximately $ 15 million to prepare the project for construction.
A final call on whether construction goes ahead will not be made until September, with interim Prime Minister James Merlino saying he could be ready by the end of 2021.
“We just don’t know what our situation will be in September, it’s about giving us options,” he said on Thursday.
The plan depends on Commonwealth approval, with national authorities having to pay for the construction.
“The request to the Commonwealth is that they pay for the construction of this facility and ultimately take possession of this facility,” Mr. Merlino said.
The state government sent the site’s business case to its federal counterparts minutes before Thursday’s announcement.
Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the government should have discussed the proposal with its federal counterparts.
“Sit down with the federal government, work on it and get it right for the Victorians. Don’t issue a list of demands like some kind of terrorist or some kind of kidnapper, ”he said.
But Mr Merlino described the $ 15 million spent on Mickleham’s plans as a “no-regret decision”, saying if rejected the alternative would be Avalon Airport near Geelong.
The new facility would be cabin accommodation, to be built as an alternative to hotel quarantine. It is still unclear whether the new facility could fully replace the hotel quarantine system.
The facility will be based out of the Howard Springs camp in the Northern Territory, with guests kept in separate cabins and more fresh air than quarantine hotels.
Mr Merlino did not confirm whether Mickleham residents would be consulted on the plans, saying the project was subject to Commonwealth planning rules.
He also said there were other options for future uses of the site, such as emergency accommodation during bushfires and floods.
A specially designed quarantine center was offered after the Holiday Inn outbreak in February, which triggered a five-day lockdown across Victoria.
At the time, Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said Avalon and Melbourne airports were “top candidates” as bases.
“It’s not just about establishing reach, we’re going to go on and build a facility. It’s just a matter of size and more specific details about the location, ”he said on February 16.
He said he expected some “participation” from the Commonwealth to fund the project.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday defended the country’s hotel quarantine system – which was primarily the responsibility of states – as being “99.99% effective” in protecting the community from COVID-19.
Victoria’s streak of no community transmission extended to 62 days on Thursday. There was a new case of overseas hotel quarantine.