Queensland‘s snap decision shut its hotel quarantine system for a fortnight has locked out its own residents as the state announced it would build a 1000-bed quarantine facility at Toowoomba.
The new facility will be built in partnership with wealthy Queensland businessman John Wagner whose family own the adjacent Wellcamp Airport.
‘We need regional quarantine facilities, it’s a no brainer,’ Ms Palaszczuk said.
‘We don’t need people in hotels, we need them in regional facilities.’
The facility is expected to be finished by the end of this year when 500 beds will open, expanding to 1,000 beds by the first quarter of next year.
The Wellcamp Airport at Toowoomba, owned by the Wagner family, would be adjacent to the new quarantine facility
For the next fortnight people entering Queensland will not be permitted to enter on a right of entry pass and would need to reapply for a border pass (pictured – travellers wearing masks in Queensland)
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she hoped the facility would end the need for hotel quarantine in the Brisbane CBD.
She said yesterday that interstate and international arrivals meant the state’s hotel quarantine system was full and Queensland was ‘being loved to death’.
A two-week delay on people entering hotel quarantine for 14 days was implemented with barely two hours notice, catching out many people who were in the process of relocating.
Ms Palaszczuk said the Queensland government had pushed for the facility at Wellcamp since January. ‘It could have been built by now,’ she said.
She said that if Prime Minister Scott Morrison didn’t know about the announcement, ‘he does now’.
A proposal for the facility had earlier been rejected by the federal government in June because it did not meeting Commonwealth guidelines for regional quarantine.
‘If we want to open our country up and we want to open our states up, regional quarantine is part of the answer,’ Ms Palaszczuk said.
‘This is going to be better than Howard Springs,’ she said, referring to the quarantine facility south of Darwin.
Details about the cost of the project, which would be run by the Wagners, would remain commercial in confidence.
The facility at Toowoomba would be in addition to the one to be constructed by the Federal government at the Damascus Barracks at Pinkenba, in Brisbane’s inner east.
Mr Morrison addressed the announcement in his press conference on Thursday.
‘She [Ms Palaszczuk] has been at liberty to do that for months,’ he said. ‘We have made a very clear that that facility did not meet the national guidelines, and that is why we are going forward together at Pinkenba.
‘They have made that decision and they could have done that months ago if that’s what they wished to do. Good for them. I wish them every success.’
Ms Palaszczuk said fears Toowoomba Hospital would be overwhelmed by Covid patients if the facility will be built would be be addressed by airlifted to Covid-equipped hospitals in Brisbane.
She defended the project against suggestions it would eventually become a white elephant.
‘If you build it, they will come,’ she said.
‘There’s a whole range of reasons people still have to travel.’
‘If this had been built when we first asked the Federal government, we potentially wouldn’t have had to make the decision yesterday to delay hotel quarantine for two weeks,’ Heath Minister Yvette D’Ath said.
New rules for those who need to quarantine in a hotel when relocating to Queensland will require people to book a room in the hotel facility before they travel and re-apply for a border pass (Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor, pictured)
From 12pm Wednesday people entering Queensland will not be permitted to enter on a right of entry pass and would need to reapply for a border pass to be allocated a time to enter in another fortnight (pictured – travellers wearing masks in Queensland)
Meanwhile one man, Cameron McBryde, told ABC Brisbane on Thursday that he, his partner and two young children was due to relocate to Queensland from Melbourne at 3pm after the sudden decision to shut hotel quarantine had come into effect at midday.
His family had vacated their Melbourne residence and all their belongings were in a truck on the way to Queensland when he discovered the family would not be able to fly into the state.
‘I went to the airport and the ladies at Virgin advised me that if my border pass wasn’t valid, I would have been returned on that plane,’ he said.
‘The decision was obviously very rash because no one at the Covid hotline had any idea of what was happening.
He said he was also $800 out of pocket because the airfares, booked months ago, could not be refunded.
‘They should have let me in that day. I can’t reapply for a pass until September 8… I’m in limbo until then.
‘I’m self-employed, everything’s in that truck.
‘The need to take in refugees for humanitarian reasons, I get that, but I don’t see why it comes at the cost of creating refugees in our own country.’
Health Minister Yvette D’ath said people who had to reapply for a border pass as a result of yesterday’s decision could ask for an exemption based on ‘exceptional circumstances’
Exemptions also exist for people accessing medical treatment or other special circumstances including bereavement.
She said yesterday the decision was implemented quickly to prevent a rush of people to the airport to get on flights.
‘What we’d have was an even greater problem because we’d have even greater surges than what we have seen over the last couple of weeks.’
‘We are really concerned about the pressure that the hotel quarantine system is putting on our resources,’ Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in her Wednesday morning press conference.
‘While we have allowed genuine relocations for work and other purposes, it has overwhelmed our hotels and it has to be stopped for at least the next fortnight,’ she said. ‘Queensland is being loved to death.’
There were currently 5,114 people in 22 quarantine hotels – 3,257 from interstate and 1,857 from overseas – the largest number since the hotel quarantine system was put in place in the state.
Between August 9 and 20, 2,750 people received border passes to relocate to Queensland, the premier said, including 1,983 people in one week.
‘We do not have any room at the moment,’ Ms Palaszczuk said. ‘We’re being stretched to the limit. It’s too much pressure, it’s putting our workers and our community at risk.
‘We don’t want to see Delta coming into our community.’
She said Queensland Police and the health department had put the proposal to her to shut down hotel quarantine for a fortnight, saying there had even been requests from the Commonwealth government to help resettle refugees from Afghanistan as a result of the Taliban’s takeover.
Queensland Police stop trucks at the Queensland border – every vehicle is being checked under current border restrictions
Queensland Police stop vehicles on the border with NSW at Coolangatta. New border measures require essential workers entering Queensland to have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine
Strict border controls between Queensland and NSW are in place as the Delta outbreak that originated in Sydney continues to spread
The new rules require individuals to book a room in a quarantine facility before they travel to Queensland.
They must also re-apply for a border pass, including returning Queensland residents.
‘Anyone who’s not already on a flight at midday will not be able to arrive simply on a right of entry pass,’ Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said.
‘Everyone who’s a Queensland resident, or seeking to relocate, will need to reapply for their pass.’
Ms D’Ath said passes would be reissued in the next fortnight, allocating each applicant a time period to arrive in Queensland so hotel room capacity could be managed.
Ms Palaszczuk said the state had recently seen ‘surges’ above the cap on international arrivals, necessitating the new hotel quarantine rules.
‘I want people to come home,’ she said. ‘If people want to relocate here, I want them to relocate here but we just have to do it in a sensible and orderly fashion.’
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski told the Today Show the quarantine system needed to be ‘reset’ in the next fortnight.
‘Of course we want Queenslanders to come back in,’ he said. ‘But we have a system that is really, really struggling with the numbers coming in… many our health workers and our police have to balance all the other things they have to do as well.
‘We had to reset the system and [get] a system more sustainable for us.
‘If we can ask for patience we will get that system fixed in the next couple of weeks. If people have a compelling reason to come back they can apply for an exemption. We are not locking everyone out.’
Border residents protest the current restrictions on NSW residents entering Queensland at Coolangatta last weekend
On Tuesday Ms Palaszczuk pushed back at Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments yesterday morning that people needed to ‘get out of the cave’ and open up the country once vaccination rates reach 80 per cent.
The premier said unlike people some other states, Queenslanders were already living in relative freedom.
‘Have a look at Queensland at the moment: you can go to work and go to school, you can go watch sport, you can play community sport, you can go to a restaurant, you can go out, we haven’t given up,’ she said.
Queensland records zero new cases as snap hotel quarantine shutdown stops locals returning home