The federal government has agreed in-principle to fund the construction of a 1000-bed quarantine facility in Western Australia.
Under the agreement, the state government will run the facility and cover operational costs for the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s hoped the first 500 beds will be ready by the end of March 2022.
Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said on Wednesday the project would allow the safe arrival of international flights into WA next year.
“It will increase our ability to respond to future emergencies or disasters, including the continued management of the COVID-19 pandemic into next year,” he said.
It comes as NSW, Melbourne, Canberra, Darwin and Katherine are in lockdown because of coronavirus outbreaks.
NSW had 452 new local infections on Tuesday, and another death.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australians not to be disheartened.
“I know that that can be very disheartening, that it can get you down, but let’s not give up. That’s not our nature,” he said in Canberra.
The PM said a record 279,465 vaccine doses had been administered in the previous 24-hour reporting period.
This amounted to about 200 jabs a minute.
Nearly 27 per cent of people aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated as the nation strives for coverage of 70 and 80 per cent to reach more open phases of the pandemic.
Mr Morrison expected half would have received one dose later this week.
Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler said no one bore more responsibility for Australia’s third wave, which has its epicentre in NSW, than Mr Morrison.
“He’s left Australians dangerously exposed with the slowest vaccine rollout in the developed world,” Mr Butler said.
“Scott Morrison is the most incompetent manager of a crisis in living memory for Australia.”
Melbourne – where a night curfew is now in place – had 24 new local infections on Wednesday, with just over two weeks still to run on the current lockdown extension.
The ACT, which will also be locked down until at least September 2, reported 17 new local cases, taking Canberra’s cluster to 45.
In the NT, where Darwin and Katherine are under tight restrictions, there were no new cases but health authorities are still processing tests.
Medical emergency experts and defence teams are being deployed in western NSW to boost vaccination rates as case numbers grow.
There is significant concern coronavirus could have devastating impacts among Indigenous people with low immunisation rates in those regions.