The COVID-19 hotel quarantine system is not working for regional communities.
For a year now, whenever there has been a breach of hotel quarantine in Melbourne or Sydney, our entire state shuts down or restrictions are imposed.
In North East Victoria, we have almost entirely avoided actual cases of COVID-19.
But we have still borne the brunt of the pandemic through the lockdown of the state and the shutdown of the border.
There has been a huge impact on our regional economy
And yet Australia will need to quarantine overseas arrivals for some time – almost certainly until 2022.
Right now, if we do not reform our quarantine system, we will clearly face another year of uncertainty and periodic shutdowns of the state and the border.
After the fires, and the prolonged border closure, we need to learn from 2020.
On top of this, there are still thousands of Australians who have been trapped overseas and unable to return because of the strict quarantine caps.
For many, it has been over a year since husbands have seen their wives, since parents have seen their children. People have bid loved ones farewell over Zoom.
I’m concerned for the many constituents who contact me frustrated by the inability for their loved ones to return home due to our quarantine caps.
We need a better solution.
Last week, I was asked by local media about using Commonwealth assets like Bandiana in regional Australia as quarantine facilities. I want to be clear.
I have never called for COVID-19 quarantine to be moved to Bandiana. Nobody has called for it. Nor should they. It would make little sense to use Bandiana as a quarantine facility.
Transporting people here from Melbourne Airport would be logistically difficult, and our health services are focused on the needs of locals. I know this as well as anyone. Not to mention the fact it is already being used by the military.
I’m focussed as always on regional communities, and especially border communities because I don’t want us to continue to be punished disproportionately by this pandemic.
Sensible quarantine measures will mean we don’t go backwards and we maintain the freedom we have worked so hard for.
It’s been a year now, and the Commonwealth Government has apparently done little to explore alternatives to solve the quarantine issue. It’s time for that to change.