‘Moral obligation’: Support grows for Qld quarantine hub
THE city's top tourism boss has weighed into a raging debate over whether Cairns should be a quarantine hub for thousands of Australians stranded overseas.
Several hotel and holiday accommodation operators in Cairns and Port Douglas have put their hand up as Queensland prepares to accept an extra 500 travellers returning from abroad each week.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO Mark Olsen said while the economic impact on the region would be negligible there was a moral obligation to get Aussies back on familiar soil.
"I think what's motivating most people in the conversation is, how do we get 23,000 Australians home in time for Christmas?" he said.
"It just seems unconscionable that we would leave Australians stranded overseas when we can help them."
Mr Olsen said Cairns had already handled quarantine hotels effectively and safely, and ramping up the intake would allow the region to further prove its ability to keep COVID-19 in check.
He also believed it would be good practice for the reopening of state travel - and eventually international borders.
"If the Cairns tourism industry can play a role, and Queensland Health can see a way to make sure that it's done in a safe way, I don't think it's any different to what we're doing with the quarantine hotel we have right here, right now," he said.
"We've done an excellent job of that.
"All of the transport and logistics have been seamless, all treatment has been absolutely spot-on.
"We haven't had any concerns raised about that activity so far.
"If we can expand that a little and keep that same level of control, then I think the industry does something life-changing for those families."
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Health Minister Steven Miles have both expressed desire in recent days for Cairns to play a key role in increasing Queensland's overseas quarantine intake.
It will be a baby step towards a return to more intensive travel arrangements in coming months.
"I understand the community members who feel that increases the risk of a COVID case in our community, but this is something we are going to have to live with," Mr Olsen said.
"Over the next few years, we won't eliminate COVID across the planet.
"We will always be working with these conditions of 'how do we allow people in, track them, trace them, provide all of the catch and support mechanisms we need'.
"We will need to start moving again,
"It's great to be in isolation for a while but this is an export-led community.
"Its employment, its identity, its sense of purpose comes from its exports - tourism, education, agriculture, these are fundamental to the identity and the future of the community.
"We will be exporting again, and that export comes with a COVID risk.
"I think expanding the quarantine hub is just one more way we can demonstrate how well we manage COVID and how well we will manage it for however long it needs to be managed for.
"It's really good practice."
Originally published as 'Moral obligation': Support grows for Cairns quarantine hub