Australia Is Considering Sending Coronavirus Evacuees to Outback Mining Camps

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(Bloomberg) --

Australia’s Plan A for handling citizens returning from coronavirus-stricken Wuhan has been to quarantine them on an island about 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometers) from the mainland that’s usually used to detain asylum seekers.

Now as the Christmas Island detention center fills up, it’s considering Plan B: sending them to mining camps in the Outback.

“There are isolated mining camps or the prospect of hotels that you could take over,” Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said in a radio interview on Wednesday. “We’ll look at all of those in order of what we think is the best response.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday that his government is working with Chinese authorities to organize a second chartered flight from Wuhan to evacuate Australian citizens and permanent residents from the city.

The first flight of about 240 passengers arrived in Australia on Monday; they were transferred to Christmas Island where they will be quarantined for as long as two weeks. A further 23 Australians and 12 permanent residents are expected to arrive on the island as early as Thursday after leaving Wuhan via New Zealand.

Dutton dismissed reports that some of the Wuhan-based Australians have complained about the conditions on Christmas Island. One evacuee described it as “worse than a prison” with poor hygiene.

“I think frankly, overwhelmingly, except for one photo of one cockroach, most people are complimentary of what has happened,” he said. “And the scale of this in China, and the way in which these numbers continue to expand, I think gives people an understanding of the gravity of what it is we’re dealing with.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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