Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated support for a dedicated quarantine facility in Victoria after the state was placed under a seven-day coronavirus lockdown.
The state government of Victoria in April asked for federal government funding for a proposed 500-bed facility for returning travellers 30 km north of Melbourne CBD, reports Xinhua news agency.
Morrison on Thursday gave the strongest indication yet that support will be forthcoming, flagging an earlier start to construction than the September date set by the state government.
“We are working with the Victorian government,” he told reporters.
“They’ve put forward a few weeks ago, I think a very useful proposal. I discussed this yesterday with (Acting Premier) James Merlino.
We are highly favourable towards this. We think it can be done actually quicker, that’s one of the things we’re working through with them now,” he added.
The announcement came hours after Merlino announced that Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, would go into lockdown for seven days after a Covid outbreak that started with a hotel quarantine breach in South Australia (SA) grew to more than 20 cases.
It is the fourth time that Victoria, the state hit hardest by the pandemic, has been placed under a lockdown.
Morrison has faced strong criticism throughout the pandemic over his failure to establish a specialized quarantine facility for returning travellers.
Since March 2020, citizens and residents returning to Australia from overseas have been subjected to 14 days of mandatory quarantine in hotels.
However, flaws in the system have been exposed with, according to the Guardian Australia, 16 leaks across the country linked to breaches.
Victoria’s second wave of infections, which caused more than 800 of Australia’s 910 Covid-19 deaths and triggered a 112-day lockdown in Melbourne last year, began with a hotel quarantine breach.
Morrison has repeatedly rejected criticism of the system, saying it has been “99.99 per cent effective” at stopping the virus from entering the Australian community.