Qld to consider quarantining returning travellers in mining camps

Jan 14, 2021
Mining camps, like those at the Mount Isa mine, may be the new home for returning travellers. Source: Getty.

The Queensland Government is considering quarantining international arrivals in mining camps after a cluster of six coronavirus cases was linked to a quarantine hotel in the Brisbane CBD. Speaking to the press on Thursday morning, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said mining camps could be used in the foreseeable future in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

It comes after Greater Brisbane went into a hard three-day lockdown after a hotel quarantine worker from the Grand Chancellor contracted the highly infectious UK strain of Covid-19. The five other cases are the partner of the hotel quarantine worker, a father and daughter who travelled from Lebanon and a couple who travelled from the UK.

“We are going to look at all options and one of those options is to look at some of the mining camps that we have in Queensland,” the premier said. “Now, for a start, some of these mining camps are four-star. They are of a very good quality high standard.

“My understanding is some of them have — most of them — the ones we’re looking at have balconies, so there’s a lot of fresh air for guests and also, too, there’s the capacity for all of the staff and the cleaners and everyone to also be based on those sites as well.”

Palaszczuk went on to say that she would raise the matter with the Federal Government when national cabinet meets 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. 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. But, of course, that’s a matter for other jurisdictions.”

It’s not clear what the mining camp may look like, but a quick search online shows what a typical mining camp room, also known as a donga, looks like. As seen in a photo on Reddit, shared by @u/mugachino about a year ago, the room includes a bed, a work space, a bathroom and an air-conditioner unit.

Typical donga in Australia – my home for the next week or so from r/mining

New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard has also weighed in on the matter and said NSW won’t be following suit as he warned vulnerable returning travellers who may contract Covid-19 while in quarantine won’t be close enough to a hospital.

“There’s been some question marks about whether or not we should be using regional hotel facilities for our hotel quarantine system,” he said in a press conference Thursday morning. “But we simply do not believe, the public health advice here in New South Wales, we don’t believe there would be an advantage, in fact, distinct disadvantages to consider moving our public health hotels out of the Sydney regional area.”

He added: “There’s also another critical factor, and that’s if we do get people who deteriorate, we want them to be able to transferred to a major tertiary hospital as quickly as possible. In other words, one that has the preeminent specialists available to look after the people who may end up with Covid.”

Fellow Aussies have since jumped on Twitter to share their thoughts on the matter, with many saying it’s a good idea. Twitter user @MTBH166 wrote: “Great idea, that will give them more freedom to move around.” And @JSWeepers commented: “Mining camps sound a little harsh, but also very safe so why not? I’m sure they can make them a little nicer.”

While @mercyrx3 wrote: “From the moment we had an outbreak from hotel Quarantine, I’ve never understood the idea of having them located in the middle of the densely populated city other than ease of movement from airport and hospital access, it just seems like a bad idea.”

However, others worried it could put those infected at risk if something goes wrong, with @BaxterPeterba writing: “Mining camps? What happens if an infected person experiences acute symptoms and requires high-level hospitalisation?”

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