The Victorian government has confirmed that it has chosen an existing quarantine site in north Melbourne for a 500-bed quarantine center for returning travelers.
The facility would be built next to an existing pet quarantine site in Mickleham, about 30 kilometers north of Melbourne’s CBD.
But construction will not begin until after September and is subject to federal government approval.
Acting Prime Minister James Merlino said the proposal had been submitted to the federal government and that “the demand to the Commonwealth is to pay for the construction of this facility and ultimately to take possession of this facility.”
The existing quarantine facility and the adjacent lands identified for the new site belong to the federal government.
The proposal is for the state COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) agency to lead operations at the site.
It is predicted that it would take four months to design and plan the site, and four more to build the housing, meaning it could be up and running by the end of the year.
Mr Merlino said the state would immediately begin design and planning work “to make sure we don’t waste time.”
The $ 15 million price tag for the design will be worn by the state.
A final decision on whether to proceed will be made in September, with Merlino saying it would depend on “what the world looks like” at that time, including the country’s immunization progress.
Mr. Merlino wouldn’t be wondering if it would be built if the federal government said no or refused to pay.
States have primarily managed quarantine since Australia quickly closed its borders last March to respond to the pandemic, although quarantine is officially a Commonwealth responsibility.
The majority of infections in the country since then have been due to leaks in the system, including the deadly second wave in Victoria and the recent lockdown in Western Australia.
Acting Emergency Services Minister Danny Pearson, who is the minister responsible for hotel quarantine in Victoria, said states “took on this burden 12 months ago” urgently.
“The Commonwealth must mobilize now to work with us to develop a long-term solution,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday defended the nation’s hotel quarantine system as being “99.99% effective” in protecting the community from COVID-19.
He was responding to criticism from WA Premier Mark McGowan, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and top medical organizations about hotel use.
The state government announced plans to move away from the hotel system in February, when Avalon Airport was touted as a possible option.
It will be based on the Howard Springs model of the Northern Territory, which includes detached cabin-style buildings.
The business case for the proposed Mickleham facility includes the possibility of scaling up to 3,000 beds, Mr. Merlino said.
Ten sites were investigated for their potential use, with proximity to the airport, CBD, and health services all part of the business case.