“Christmas Island is far too remote to be used … in our opinion. It actually means that you are putting at risk the lives of the people who you are quarantining,” said Dr Khorshid.
“But mainland facilities, not too far from appropriate levels of healthcare, are definitely worth considering in the longer term,” he said, while adding that by the time new facilities were completed, they may no longer be needed.
Support for alternative models of quarantine has been growing, buoyed by the threat of a more infectious UK strain of coronavirus, and continued leaks from city hotels across the country.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has plans to quarantine returned travellers at regional mining camps, with a number of options on the table, including in Gladstone and Toowoomba.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also backed a potential collaboration with the Commonwealth this week, saying there was an argument to have a series of large facilities for thousands of people, similar to Howard Springs.
He said the facilities could also be used for bushfires and other future emergencies.
“We couldn’t build a facility that say housed a couple of thousand people safely with all protocols without the federal government’s help. But there’s an argument I think, to maybe do that.“
The issue of quarantining people in regional Australia was briefly raised at Friday’s National Cabinet, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said he was keeping an open mind on the Queensland government’s proposal.
Camp-style quarantine facilities offer a number of benefits, including access to fresh air and better separation of returned travellers. They are also challenging to set up and run.