Planning for a new purpose-built quarantine accommodation hub in Victoria will soon be underway after the state government settled on a preferred site in Mickleham for the proposed facility today.
Subject to the Commonwealth Government agreeing to cover construction costs and taking ultimate ownership of the hub, planning will start on the 500-bed quarantine facility at Donnybrook Road, Mickleham.
The Victorian Government expects the planning stage of the new project will cost around $15 million - a price it is ready to pay considering the delayed vaccine rollout in Australia and an increasingly dire COVID-19 situation around the world.
The preferred site is on Commonwealth land and is next to an existing animal quarantine facility.
If the Commonwealth agrees, it will operate the facility like it does Australia's only other standalone quarantine site - Howard Springs in the Northern Territory. To date, no outbreaks of COVID-19 into the community have been traced back to the hub near Darwin.
The final decision on whether to proceed with construction will be made in September, pending support from the Commonwealth and future insight on a range of matters, including the progress of the vaccine rollout, the efficacy of vaccines in preventing COVID-19 transmission, and Commonwealth decisions on rules governing travel into and out of Australia.
"It's clear this virus will be with us for some time," VIC Acting Premier James Merlino said.
"While we can't control how well or how fast other countries deal with the pandemic or their vaccine rollout, we can make sure our own quarantine system is as strong and safe as possible."
"The best time to start work on a standalone quarantine hub would have been 12 months ago - the second-best time is now."
The master plan for the new hub includes dedicated onsite services, including catering, that will support strong infection control and prevention measures. It is also designed with the ability to increase to up to 3,000 beds as part of a scalable build if a larger facility is determined to be required at any point.
The new hub will also be designed with relocatable cabins so that it can be utilised for alternative and future needs, including ongoing quarantine arrangements, crisis accommodation and other emergencies.
"We've seen how wildly unpredictable and dangerous this virus can be. This is our insurance policy to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep Victoria and Australia safe," Acting Minister for Police and Emergency Services Danny Pearson said.
"We've done the work to stack this project up and now we're asking the Commonwealth to get on board and help deliver it."
Updated at 1.15pm AEST on 29 April 2021.
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