Victoria’s $ 580m purpose-built COVID quarantine facility in Mickleham opens as border rules lift

Melbourne’s $ 580 million purpose-built quarantine facility is getting ready to welcome its first quarantine patients next week, but with COVID-19 case numbers on the decline it is only anticipating up to 10 guests on day one.

The Center for National Resilience in Mickleham will eventually be able to accommodate up to 1,000 people, but when it opens on Monday only 500 beds will be available and few will be occupied.

“We’re imagining small numbers, seven to 10 [residents] on Monday, and then we’re just going to need to see as that grows, “Police Minister Lisa Neville said.

For the first time the federal government, which is funding the facility, has confirmed the expected cost of completion is $ 580 million.

It will be the most expensive of several centers set to be built around the country.

During a media tour of the facility, some of the beds featured towels folded into the shape of white elephants.

But despite what the creatively shaped towels may imply, the federal and Victorian governments maintain the facility is not a waste of money.

Two beds side by side with white bath towels that have been folded into the shape of elephants
The federal and Victorian governments say the facility is not a white elephant.(ABC News: Nicole Asher)

“This is another step in our ongoing management of the COVID-19 pandemic and increases our ability to continue to safely return travelers into Australia for any ongoing quarantine requirements,” Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said.

The Mickleham facility is built and owned by the federal government, but will be operated by the Victorian government for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During that time it will house unvaccinated travelers, who must quarantine for seven days upon arrival in the state, and members of the community who have COVID-19 but cannot isolate safely at home.

The facility will open on the day Australia’s international border rules will dramatically lift, allowing foreign tourists back into the country for the first time in nearly two years.

But the state government also sees a future for the facility beyond this pandemic.

“You might be able to provide emergency housing in bushfire times for example,” Ms Neville said.

“It is built to be able to provide, feed people, care for people in a really nice space.

Even the opposition agrees.

“It’s a shame it wasn’t in place maybe a year or so ago when it was needed most. But it’s an important piece of armory to ensure there are no more lockdowns,” Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said.

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