Queensland’s first purpose-built quarantine facility for overseas arrivals has officially been given the green light, with construction set to be completed by mid-2022.
The Queensland government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the federal government to begin constructing the 1,000-bed facility on a 30-hectare site at the Damascus Barracks in Pinkenba, just metres from Brisbane Airport.
Under the new deal, the Commonwealth will foot the bill for the design, construction and fit-out of the facility, while the Queensland government will cover the centre’s running costs.
Like the Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory, the Pinkenba site will be purpose-built to house international arrivals, with self-contained units and separate individual bathrooms.
The site will also have medical facilities for COVID testing, and handling mild COVID-19 cases.
Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles welcomed the MoU, and stated it is a significant milestone in Australia’s COVID response.
“Following countless breaches from the nation’s hotel quarantine system it’s clear there is an urgent need for more fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities throughout Australia,” he said.
“With NSW and Victoria in lockdown, we cannot afford more leaks from hotel quarantine.”
The Queensland government also continues to support the construction of a regional quarantine facility at Wellcamp Airport, near the inland city of Toowoomba, to reduce the risk of leaks into the community from hotel quarantine.
“Until all Australians have been offered a vaccination, quarantine facilities will remain Australia’s frontline in preventing deadly new strains of COVID-19 from entering our community,” Deputy Premier Miles said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has long called for a purpose-built quarantine facility to be constructed outside of Brisbane, to reduce risk of community transmission, with the proposed Wellcamp facility favoured by the state government.
In January, the Wagner family, which owns Wellcamp Airport, pitched the idea of a purpose-built 1,000 room quarantine facility to be built beside the airport terminal.
The plan would have seen Wellcamp Airport, west of Toowoomba and 150 kilometres outside of Brisbane, as a new entry-point into the country for Australians arriving home.
Airport chairman John Wagner said construction could be facilitated by the Wagners and be completed within “the next four to five weeks”, on vacant land next to the airport’s terminal.
While the state government is in support of the facility, Prime Minister Scott Morrisson has continued to block the proposal.
“If we have two facilities, we will not have to use hotels for quarantine,” Premier Palaszczuk said, stating that an additional facility at Wellcamp “would be of great assistance” to Queensland’s COVID response.
The Premier added that as the Delta variant continues to run rampant through multiple Australian communities, including a recent outbreak in Brisbane high schools, the need for dedicated quarantine facilities has “never been more urgent”.