Australia’s coronavirus vaccination rollout has reached another milestone as political bickering over quarantine facilities continues.
Australia scored its fifth millionth shot three months after the country’s largest vaccination program was launched as a record 88,000 Australians are rolling up their sleeves for the vaccine on Saturday.
About 772,750 vaccinations have been done in the past six days, which is also a record.
“We’ve seen the vaccine program accelerate,” Federal Health Secretary Greg Hunt told reporters.
“When the offer becomes available, the public will step up and do their part of the job.”
Coronavirus vaccine shots crossed the five million mark in Australia on Saturday. Pictured are Victorians queuing for the jab outside the Melbourne Exhibition Center vaccination centercentrum
An additional 100,000 vaccines are being made available for Victoria, where five million Melburnians remain in a 14-day lockdown that ends on Thursday.
The state initially reported two new infections on Sunday, along with six cases among foreign travelers currently in hotel quarantine.
Two more cases emerged linked to the Arcare Maidstone nursing home – a 79-year-old resident and an aged care worker have since emerged.
Meanwhile, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has expressed interest in a new quarantine facility being built in his state after Victoria signed an agreement with the Commonwealth last week,
Queensland has also proposed a site similar to the former Howard Springs mining camp in the Northern Territory.
Mr Perrottet says NSW has done the heavy lifting when it comes to quarantining hotels and setting up a facility over the next 12 months could help ease the strain on its hotel system.
“That’s something we need to look at,” said Mr Perrottet.
“The federal government has said it will support these kinds of facilities in other states and we want to work on a proposal that makes sense and keeps our people safe.”
A record 88,000 Australians rolled up their sleeves for the vaccine on Saturday. Pictured are queues at a Brisbane vaccination center
But Mr Hunt said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had already been in contact with NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian.
“The Prime Minister has confirmed with the Prime Minister that they are not seeking an additional quarantine facility in New South Wales at this time,” Mr Hunt said.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said national government-run purpose-built quarantine facilities should have been last year.
“That was the best time to do this, the best next time is now,” he told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
He pointed out that building quarantine facilities is a labor policy, as announced in last month’s speech on the budget.
“This must be resolved now, not wait until after the next federal election, which may not take place until May of next year,” he said.
“We can’t afford to keep having these lockdowns.”
The debate over more quarantine facilities like the Northern Territory’s in Howards Springs (pictured) has continued
Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles says there is only one purpose-built facility in Australia, Howard Springs in the Northern Territory, which is unsurprisingly lacking in COVID-19 outbreaks, having seen 21 or 22 hotels in the past year.
“Fit-for-purpose facilities should do most of the work,” he told ABC’s Insiders program.
An agreement has been reached for the Commonwealth to pay the capital costs for a 500-bed facility in the outlying Melbourne area, while Victoria would cover the operational costs.
Mr Morrison says the proposal is ‘very good’.
Although Victoria’s proposal was an 80-page document, it is believed that a proposal from Queensland contained few details.
Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk told the Queensland Labor Conference on Saturday that the plan to build a 1,000-bed center near Toowoomba is not rocket science.
“We’re not proposing building an international space station,” she said.
‘These are fairly basic constructions, but they can provide the safety and security that our country needs.’
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says the Covid vaccination program is now accelerating after a series of errors and delays. Pictured is a vaccination center in Brisbane on Saturday