AVALON Airport is among the leaders for a COVID-19 quarantine facility purpose-built by the state government, with Premier Daniel Andrews describing the Geelong airport as an “obvious candidate”.
The new facility would host some, if not most, of the international travellers who need to isolate for two weeks and are presently staying in hotels in central Melbourne.
Speaking to Melbourne radio at the weekend, Avalon Airport chief executive officer Justin Giddings suggested a national approach to the quarantine system, and backed the idea that a quarantine facility could be built in the ample space at his airport.
“Being able to fly people in from overseas, returning residents or even international students, being able to walk across into accommodation which is designed to allow you to go outside to get some fresh air, and spend your 14 days there isolated, have your testing, completely away from anybody else is a really good idea and something we’d be prepared to support.”
At a press conference on Tuesday, Premier Daniel Andrews said his government was actively pursuing and examining the construction of a facility similar to the one at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.
“People would be in the same location but not sharing the same spaces, so they’re not under the same roofline,” he said.
“It would be a cabin-style, village-style environment, where there would be fresh air, where there would be not zero risk but lower risk.”
Mr Andrews said that work was ongoing and a delegation of senior officials would travel to the Northern Territory as soon as practicable to see first-hand how the Howard Springs facility was set up.
“The two obvious candidates – Avalon Airport, you’ve got space and you’ve got an international terminal; and, of course, Melbourne Airport as well,” he said.
“We will pursue both of those, do that work, it’s well and truly under way and we will report progress as that happened but I think we do have to have a proper conversation at a National Cabinet level about what we can do, what further can we do to reduce the risk particularly in light of this UK strain.
“It’s more than just scoping it. We are going to get on and build a facility.
“It’s just a matter of how big it is and the more precise details of where, but Avalon and Melbourne airports are stand-out candidates and I’m very grateful to them for the partnership and work they’ve already done with us.”
Two local Liberal MPs, Polwarth MP Richard Riordan and Member for Western Victoria Beverly McArthur, also support a regional quarantine site at Avalon.
“The airport brings a secure, segregated environment, with sufficient land capacity to operate an entirely safe and isolated quarantine facility and represents a real opportunity to transform Victoria’s approach to hotel quarantine,” Ms McArthur said.
Victoria ended its five-day snap lockdown as of 11.59pm yesterday (Wednesday, February 17).
On Tuesday, Mr Andrews could not definitively commit to the lockdown ending as scheduled but said the state was “well-placed to be able to make changes tomorrow night”.