COVID camps unsuitable for regions

Queensland mine camps unsuitable for quarantine

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Western Downs Regional Council Mayor Peter McVeigh said he was unaware of any suitable mining camps where returned overseas travellers could quarantine in his area.

Western Downs Regional Council Mayor Peter McVeigh said he was unaware of any suitable mining camps where returned overseas travellers could quarantine in his area.

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There are calls for a quarantine camp to be set up at Brisbane Airport to house returned overseas travellers rather than sending them to mining camps in the regions.

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THERE are calls for a quarantine camp to be set up at Brisbane Airport to house returned overseas travellers rather than sending them to mining camps in the regions.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today suggested 'four-star' mining camps could be used to quarantine returned travellers to reduce the risk of housing them in hotels in Brisbane's CBD.

But the proposal has been met with backlash in regional Queensland, who queried the logistics of such a plan and reiterated concerns about potentially spreading COVID-19 to communities that have largely been free of the virus.

Questions were also raised as to where the disused mine camps were located, with most decommissioned or were still operational accommodating essential mine workers.

Warrego MP Ann Leahy said there was no reason why functional camps could not be set up in Brisbane, close to services, as happened in Roma to house people displaced from the flood in 2012.

"Queensland is not like Howard Springs in the Northern Territory, which is less than an hours drive from the city," Ms Leahy said.

"If there's a problem with hotels in inner-city Brisbane, there is plenty of spare land around the airport which is close to facilities.

"Take the camp to where the people are and minimise the number of interactions they would have with people like transport staff."

Western Downs Regional Council Mayor Paul McVeigh said while mine camps ticked the box in terms of being isolated, many other requirements would not be met.

"Our camps, the rooms aren't that big, they're not like hotel rooms, there's a bed, toilet and shower and no verandah," Cr McVeigh said.

"We understand and appreciate the need for isolation, but these camps are working camps, not a luxury motel.

"The other issue is the transport, for them to fly in and go straight to camp by bus is another challenge.

"I don't think the community is particularly accepting of the potential of bringing COVID to the country."

Cr McVeigh said the implications for health services in the bush, and the health of those in quarantine, must be taken into account.

"If some of these people do develop symptoms we don't have the hospital capacity to look after them, they'll have to be transported back to a major city.

"Our capacity if disease does develop, we may not have the facilities to be able to look after them and wouldn't want to bring it to a hospital network which is not trained."

Cr McVeigh didn't believe there were any mine camps in his district that would be suitable for quarantine.

"We've had a couple of camps closed and they've been removed, a few are running quite low at the moment with the downturn in the gas industry, but they are still needed for workers.

"The mining companies have done an unbelievable job managing their workforce, restricting exposure to them and the community."

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the QRC and its coal, metal and gas members have worked tirelessly and successfully to protect industry workers, their families and mining communities from COVID-19 over the past 11 months.

"Our diligence has meant the resources sector has been able to continue to operate and earn for Queensland," Mr Macfarlane said.

"This diligence and vigilance and the industry's willingness to go above and beyond Queensland Health requirements was recognised by the CHO at a meeting earlier this week with the Premier and QRC."

But ultimately, Mr Macfarlane said the decision on the use of isolated mining camps for quarantined travellers would be made by the Premier and the CHO.

"The resources industry will co-operate and assist where requested," he said.

"Keeping our workers and the Queensland community safe, particularly in regional areas, will continue to be our priority.

"We will work closely with the government to provide input into any decisions that impact on our workforce and the communities in which we operate."

The story COVID camps unsuitable for regions first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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