Queensland will consider housing returned travellers and quarantine staff in a bubble at the state’s mining camps in a bid to keep the community safe from overseas-acquired cases of COVID-19.
The move comes despite the state recording no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and as authorities race to track down anyone linked to a concerning hotel quarantine cluster.
The welcome news comes one day after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk revealed an unprecedented mass evacuation of all guests at the Hotel Grand Chancellor.
A total of 13,061 tests were carried out in the last testing period, with four cases detected in hotel quarantine – none of which were linked to the Hotel Grand Chancellor.
The hotel has been linked to six cases of the highly infectious UK strain of COVID-19, including a cleaner and her partner who were infectious in the community.
Authorities are yet to determine how the virus spread through the facility and so have moved all 129 guests who were already in quarantine to another facility to undergo a further 14 days in isolation.
In addition, 147 Australians who have been released from the hotel since December 30 and 226 staff who have worked at the facility since the same date will also need to undergo 14 days of quarantine.
Ms Palaszczuk said she wanted to look at alternative plans to hotel quarantine, which is based in the middle of the Brisbane and Gold Coast CBDs.
“I think this is a rational option, and if we are dealing with a strain which is up to 70 per cent more infectious, I think we need to be really serious about it,” she said.
“I have asked (chief health officer) Dr Young and the health minister and the commissioner and her team to go and look at some options for the government to consider.”
Ms Palaszczuk said some of the camps were “four star” quality and would have fresh air for guests.
There would also be capacity for all the staff and cleaners to be based on site as well.
Ms Palaszczuk said she would discuss the idea at national cabinet next Friday.
“It’s a matter for states and territories, but I think with this new strain, we have to put all options on the table, and these are sensible, rational options,” she said.
“The Howard Springs works very well in the Northern Territory, and there’s no reason why we couldn’t do something similar here in Queensland or if not around the country.
“Of course, that’s a matter for other jurisdictions.”
The chief health officer said she was very confident authorities had found all close contacts of the cleaner and her partner.
“I have very little concern that will spread in the community. But we have to remember the 14-day incubation period,” she said.