Morrison offers states quarantine options

The Morrison government has agreed to progress quarantine hubs in three states as parts of Sydney prepare to enter a snap lockdown.

The Bondi outbreak has infected 65 people, prompting the state government to issue stay-at-home orders to residents of four Sydney council areas in the eastern suburbs.

Experts have criticised the speed of the vaccine rollout and failures in the quarantine system which allowed an unvaccinated driver to pick up overseas arrivals in Sydney.

Scott Morrison has written to premiers in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia to advance quarantine options after months of ongoing demands for more federal action.

The prime minister has given the green light to a 1000-bed hub at Mickleham in Melbourne’s north, a Commonwealth site the state government favours.

An initial 500 beds will be available to allow it to house returning Australians by the end of the year.

Mr Morrison rejected Queensland’s push for a facility near Toowoomba, but raised the prospect of using the Damascus Barracks five kilometres from Brisbane Airport.

He also wrote to WA Premier Mark McGowan identifying federally owned sites at Perth and Jandakot airports.

Access to an international airport and proximity to a principal referral hospital are considered key criteria for quarantine centres.

Epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws said the existing hotel quarantine system needed to be tightened up because it would be some time before new facilities were built.

“The whole quarantine system is a mistake, and for anyone to say it has been working well is using the wrong denominator,” she told the Nine Network.

“We have had over 21,000 cases in Australia that have been caused since we closed the borders, and we’ve been using quarantine hotels, which have really never met correct standards.”

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said federal action had taken far too long with 25 breaches of hotel quarantine since the start of the pandemic.

“There are holes in the system,” he told Nine.

Mr Marles said the situation in Sydney was another quarantine failure which was keeping Australia in a perpetual state of restrictions. 

“We are living in the land of the lockdown.”

Epidemiologist Bill Bowtell said without immunisation rates being higher, governments only had the blunt instrument of lockdowns to fight the virus.

“The failures in vaccination, the failures in quarantine have unfortunately left Sydneysiders as sitting ducks,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.

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