By HARRY CLARKE

GOVERNMENT-enforced coronavirus quarantine will from today be handled solely within the Wagner accommodation facility being built west of Toowoomba.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deputy Premier Steven Miles visited the 1000-bed facility at Wellcamp this morning to declare “what is effectively the end of hotel quarantine in Queensland”.

The Wagner Corporation began building the accomodation facility in October last year and already 500 spaces are ready to be used by people needing to quarantine. The remaining 500 spaces will be ready by April.

“We need to make sure that we’re absolutely prepared for the future and this regional quarantine facility is state of the art,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

She said that the facility incorporated “all of the learnings that we have learnt over the last two years of the pandemic – things such as security cameras, ventilation, making sure that families feel comfortable and safe”.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deputy Premier Steven Miles at the Wagner quarantine facility at Wellcamp

At the height of the quarantine period up to 22 hotels throughout South East Queensland were being used by international and domestic travellers entering the state.

A total of nearly 128,000 people have undergone hotel quarantine and Ms Palaszczuk said the very last guest would be released into the community about 3pm this afternoon.

But with Queensland borders open and coronavirus cases now widespread throughout the state, there’s scepticism about the extent to which the Wellcamp quarantine facility will remain necessary.

“The Australian Government is about to open international travel. There are going to be a lot more flights coming into Queensland,” Ms Palaszczuk said. 

“There is going to be seasonal workforces where their vaccination rates do not meet the TGA requirements. There are going to be people who are unvaccinated coming in. 

“Let me assure the public this facility will be put to very good use.”

The Wellcamp quarantine facility can so far accommodate 500 people, while another 500 spaces will be available by April

The government has also been heavily criticised for refusing to reveal how much taxpayer money has been spent on the project, saying the cost of the deal was “commercial in confidence”.

Under the government’s arrangement with the Wagner Corporation, the facility will be leased and staffed at taxpayers’ cost for a minimum period of one year.

Mr Miles said roughly 60 people had already been housed at the Wellcamp quarantine facility, and that it would be equipped to accommodate “base capacity as well as surge capacity”.

“The current guests are a mix of travellers and mariners, but we anticipate an ongoing number of arrivals, particularly from countries where their vaccines aren’t recognised by our TGA and therefore will be required to quarantine, as well as farm workers from other countries that haven’t been able to access vaccinations,” Mr Miles said.

“Throughout this project you’ve seen different governments take different approaches. Our government has taken an approach of being prepared for whatever might come.

“Other governments have taken a wait and see approach, and that has cost us dearly at various different points.”

Observing a traditional smoking ceremony at the Wellcamp quarantine opening were (L-R) QFES quarantine management taskforce commissioner Joanne Greenfield, Deputy Premier Stephen Miles, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Wagner Corporation chairman John Wagner, QPS Commissioner Katarina Carroll and QPD Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski

Wagner Corporation chairman John Wagner said up to 400 workers will have worked to build the quarantine facility by the time it’s constructed, and that 85 percent of contractors and materials were sourced from the Tooowoomba region.

“In think today is very much a day when you will be proud to be a Queenslander and I’d like to congratulate the Queensland Government for their commitment and intestinal fortitude to go it alone with a facility such as this, which is without a doubt the most advanced quarantine accommodation facility in the country and probably the world,” Mr Wagner said.

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