The Queensland Government has today announced a partnership with the Wagner Corporation to build a 1,000-bed quarantine facility adjacent to the Toowoomba airport, with expectations 500 beds should be operational by the end of 2021.
Modelled on the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory, the cabin-style accommodation is aimed at alleviating a hotel quarantine system that is currently stretched and not fit-for-purpose.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the facility in Wellcamp, Toowoomba will have 1,000-bed capacity by the first quarter of next year.
"This is a commitment by the Wagner family working with the Queensland Government to say to the people of Queensland 'we want to keep you safe', and the best way to keep you safe and to keep Delta out of Queensland is to build, as quickly as possible, a regional quarantine facility," she says.
The announcement follows the news last week that the Federal Government would proceed with a purpose-built quarantine facility in the Brisbane suburb of Pinkenba, which is expected to be ready by mid-2022.
"The Queensland Government will continue to work collaboratively to progress the Commonwealth’s Pinkenba facility, but we need more options to get returning Australians home safer," says Deputy Premier Steven Miles.
"Following countless leaks from the nation’s hotel quarantine system, it’s clear there is an urgent need for alternative facilities in Australia.
Miles highlights the facility will be built at a greenfield location that is ready for construction.
"In fact early works are underway as we speak, and it is adjacent to an airport. It will be the first facility after Howard springs to be completed and be accommodating returning travelers," Miles says.
He says there will be a mix of single, double and family accommodation in cabin style with balconies, and importantly, no hallways adjoining rooms which have been vectors for virus transmission.
"COVID-positive patients who require hospital care will be treated in one of the five COVID hospitals that we currently use that we currently transfer people to," Miles says.
"By funding this facility ourselves and building this facility ourselves, we can ensure that it replaces current hotel quarantine usage that will allow us to take travellers who are currently within the cap and put them into this facility, reducing the need for hotel quarantine."
The facility will be built by the Wagner Corporation with accommodation modules to be manufactured in Queensland. Once the facility is up and running it will be operated by the state government, which has a one-year lease with options that can be extended to two or three years.
"When you consider that the last lockdown alone cost more than $1 billion in economic impact and compensation, you can see just what fantastic value it will be if we can avoid just one lockdown, let alone more with this new facility," Miles says.
"The work has started now. It's time for the politics to end, the facility will be built."
John Wagner has thanked the Queensland Government for having the confidence in his family to go ahead with the facility, and for keeping the state's residents safe.
"As the landlord of this facility to the Queensland Government we are working through the final design criteria to make sure we have the best fit-for-purpose regional accommodation facility for return travellers that there is in country or in fact the world," he says.
"This is going to be a great economic boost for Toowoomba. It will create a lot of local employment. Our local producers, just by the fact that we have to produce 3,000 meals a day, will really benefit from this and it will help get Queensland out of COVID and on the road to economic recovery, which we desperately need."
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath also points to the ongoing need for quarantine measures even once vaccine targets have been reached, in line with the Doherty Institute's findings that have formed the basis for discussions around the loosening of measures.
"Their own report says we will need to keep some public health measures in place - test, trace, isolate and quarantine. So even with high vaccination rates, we must continue these public health measures, which means we will continue to need quarantine facilities and we will need to make sure they're purpose built and they're keeping our community safe."
Updated at 11am AEST on 26 August 2021.
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