Premier silent on prison quarantine plan

By | April 27, 2021

Victoria’s Acting Premier has remained tight-lipped about the government’s preferred site for a stand-alone quarantine facility despite reports it could be housed at a new youth prison.

A report in The Age on Tuesday suggested Avalon Airport was no longer the state government’s number one location for a dedicated COVID-19 quarantine facility to house returned international travellers.

Instead, the report said a site at Cherry Creek – about 40km from the CBD in Melbourne’s western suburbs and where the government owns land and is building a youth prison – was a new preferred site being considered.

But when quizzed on Tuesday morning, Acting Premier James Merlino said he could not confirm the report.

He said an announcement was imminent, and he would be in a position to talk about the next steps in relation to the dedicated quarantine facility later in the week.

“In terms of what the business case says, in terms of location, in terms of the model, I’ll have more to say about that later in the week,” he said.

“We’ve got the business case, we’re just working through some final issues … Thursday or Friday we’ll be in a position to talk in full detail about what the business case says.”

Mr Merlino said about 10 sites were identified as potential locations for the facility, and one of the tasks of the business case was to narrow that down to a single preferred site.

One of the sites considered, and initially believed to be the frontrunner, was Avalon Airport.

The Cherry Creek site is about 20 minutes from Avalon, meaning international flights could still land there.

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A Melbourne Airport spokeswoman confirmed to NCA NewsWire that they decided not to bid for the facility due to a “commercial decision”.

Criticism of COVID-19 quarantine hotels has ramped up in recent days after the virus escaped the Mercure Hotel in Perth and sent the city into a snap three-day lockdown.

The virus also escaped from the Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn quarantine hotel in February after a returning traveller infected other guests and staff.

Victoria’s idea for a dedicated quarantine facility would involve individual cabin-style facilities similar to Howard Springs near Darwin, which is yet to have any issues with the virus jumping from returned travellers into the community.

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