The government of the Australian state of Queensland announced on Thursday that it has struck a deal with billionaire John Wagner to build a fit-for-purpose regional COVID-19 quarantine facility at Wellcamp, Toowoomba, providing 1,000 beds to ease pressure on the state’s hotel quarantine system.
This comes less than 24 hours after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk slammed shut its borders for two weeks, citing pressure on the hotel quarantine system.
The first 500 beds will be ready by the end of the year, with the remaining 500 expected by the end of the first financial quarter of 2022.
Palaszcuk said hotels were not built to specifically deal with the Delta strain of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
“We need regional quarantine facilities. I have been advocating this for a long, long time. It is a no brainer,” she told reporters on Thursday from Toowoomba, where she said works had already commenced.
“Howard Springs has been a brilliant example. You’ve seen our Olympians come back and stay there. It’s spread out. It’s fresh air for people. People don’t have to stay in rooms without balconies.
“I’ve done hotel quarantine myself. There is a constant flow of people coming up and down in the lifts.
“Our hotels were not meant to be the last line of defence to deal with a global pandemic,” the premier said.
The Queensland government will finance the Wellcamp facility after it failed to get the Commonwealth funding. Instead, the Commonwealth is funding a 1,000-bed facility near Brisbane’s international airport in the suburb of Pinkenba.
The Commonwealth struck a deal with the Queensland government for the Pinkenba facility in June after Palaszczuk’s Wellcamp proposal failed to meet the Commonwealth’s requirements for a fit-for-purpose quarantine facility.
The premier said the Wellcamp facility would cost “a lot less” than the Commonwealth’s Pinkemba facility, but refused to elaborate, citing the deal was commercial in confidence.
Palaszcuk noted that she had been calling for the Wellcamp facility since January. “It could have been built by now, but we are going to have this facility, starting to be up and running by the end of the year.”
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Palaszczuk had been at liberty to build the Wellcamp facility for months.
“We’ve made it very clear that that facility did not meet the national guidelines and that’s why we’re going forward together at Pinkenba,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
“But the Queensland Government was always been in a position to go ahead with that facility, if that’s what they wish to do, and to have people quarantine there rather than in hotel facilities.”
He added, “They could have done that months ago.”
Wagner Corporation will build the facility, with the accommodation modules to be manufactured in Queensland. The Queensland Government will operate the facility once it is up and running.
John Wagner said his side and the Queensland government were working through final design criteria to ensure the facility was the best it could be.
He noted that it would provide local jobs during the construction and operating phases, including staff to provide at least 3,000 meals a day.