The Victorian government is exploring the possibility of a purpose-built quarantine centre, in order to avoid yet another COVID-19 outbreak from a Melbourne CBD hotel.
Speaking to the press this morning, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said this new facility, if approved, would replace most of the work currently being done by hotels to accommodate international arrivals.
The centre will be based on the Howard Springs model used by the Northern Territory government to house returned travellers, and would be located either at Avalon Airport or Melbourne Airport.
If the centre is constructed, people would be staying at the same location but would not share the same spaces.
Based on advice from public health experts and COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria, the following specifications would be implemented in the design of any such hub:
- Flat structures (not multi-storey) that are adequately spaced are preferable;
- Designs that allow for strict IPC protocols that are already in place in the existing program;
- Individual rooms that cater to a variety of family sizes with self-contained bathroom facilitie;
- High quality or separate ventilation systems per room, including the use of windows;
- Surfaces that are easily cleaned, to enable the highest standard of IPC protocols; and
- Separate and adequately sized staff facilities.
"I think that there is a compelling argument for this not just in Melbourne, not just in the Northern Territory; I know the Queensland Government are working in partnership with the Commonwealth around a facility of similar structures," Premier Andrews said.
"I think we do have to have a proper conversation at a National Cabinet level about what we can do to reduce the risk, particularly in light of this UK strain.
"We're going to get on and built it, so it's just a matter of exactly how big it is. But Melbourne and Avalon Airports are standout candidates."
The Victorian government says the facility could also be used in the future for emergency needs, including ongoing quarantine arrangements or bushfire emergency accommodation.
The announcement comes as Victoria reports two new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 today, both connected to the Holiday Inn outbreak.
Both cases were isolating meaning there are no further exposure sites in Melbourne.
The state is expected to emerge from a strict five-day lockdown tomorrow at midnight, with Andrews today saying he will have further announcements about the next steps tomorrow.
"This strategy is working. We are well placed to be making changes tomorrow night," Andrews said.
"I'm not in a position to definitively commit to that, because these next 24 hours will, of course, be crucial."
Updated at 12.15pm AEDT on 16 February 2021.
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