The federal government should consider building a purpose-built quarantine facility in the ACT if there is going to be an ongoing need to quarantine returning government officials, according to Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the delegation that attended the G7 Summit in Cornwall, England, landed in Canberra on Thursday night.
While Mr Morrison will quarantine for two weeks at the Lodge and about 10 others will quarantine at home, a further 30 will quarantine at Davey Lodge at the Australian National University. All the travellers have been fully vaccinated.
It's a plan that caused consternation within ACT Health, where the overriding feeling is that quarantine at the university was presented as a done deal without the ability to knock it back.
On Friday morning, Mr Barr said the issue had been on his government's agenda for some time.
"It's the Commonwealth's responsibility principally around being able to manage their own staff and their own issues, but they need to work with us on those matters," he said.
"They are encountering, or had encountered, some of the same issues that we have, there's limited quarantine facilities in the ACT."
Mr Barr said ACT Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman was "comfortable" with the outcome, but without a purpose-built quarantine facility in Canberra, the Commonwealth may need to consider its plans for future delegations.
"And that's interesting question, I need to think about this beyond COVID, I suspect, but maybe they do need a purpose built quarantine facility to manage the movement of Commonwealth officials at a scale of about 30," he said.
"Maybe they do. But that's a matter for them to consider."
Australian National University is hoping the quarantine of the officials will open a wider conversation about how international students could return to campus and quarantine in the facility.
In a statement a university spokesman said the university was excited to host the delegation "and to work alongside ACT Health to show how it can be done safely and successfully for future returning travellers".
"We look forward to working closely with the Chief Health Officer to develop quarantine options that allow our students to return to the ACT and keep our community safe," the spokesman said.
The university would welcome "co-designed, safe quarantine arrangements".
According to the university, many of the 3000 enrolled international students are still stuck overseas, and want to get back on campus as soon as possible.
"We see the safe quarantine of returning Australians as helping fulfil the unique national mission of ANU - a University that is a resource for all Australians every day."
Tension around the quarantine comes not only from the planning, but also ACT Health's assessment of the suitability of Davey Lodge. While it meets national quarantine standards, it has been assessed as unsuitable by ACT Health's standards, which require access to balconies and kitchen facilities in rooms.
On Friday, Mr Barr seemed to talk down the possibility that the facility would be used to return students.
"I'll just make the observation that you couldn't stack 500 students into Davey Lodge, that would then completely obliterate all of the quarantine measures that are in place now," he said.
"So we're talking about a group of 30, we're not going to solve the international student issue 30 at a time."
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