Victoria achieved 38 days in a row without a new COVID-19 event, as SriLankan Airlines landed in Melbourne on Monday morning with the first foreign passengers to be housed in the state’s renovated hotel quarantine programme.
The new “double doughnut” day came after 4912 Victorians had been screened for the virus on Sunday.
The state has been accepting foreign travellers for the first time since July 10. Flight UL604 from Colombo arrived just before 8 a.m. and was the first of eight scheduled international passenger flights scheduled to arrive on Monday.
Monday marks a significant milestone for Victoria, which suffered a prolonged hard lockdown, thousands of infections and more than 800 deaths as a result of the second COVID-19 wave that came to an end after the virus had fled to the Melbourne quarantine hotels.
Victoria will welcome 160 returning travellers every day as its hotel quarantine programme resumes until the hotel’s capacity is steadily expanded.
On Monday, eight passenger flights will arrive from counties like Sri Lanka, Japan, Singapore, Qatar and the Philippines. Passengers arriving from Auckland would not need to quarantine under an Australian travel bubble agreement with New Zealand.
Eleven airport and CBD hotels will engage in the second phase of the quarantine programme, including the Stamford Hotel, which was one of the hotels under investigation for virus leakage. Significantly, private protection will not be included in the new system, and testing procedures have been stepped up.
Hotel guests will have to pay around $3,500 for their 14-day stay, and fresh-air breaks will be restricted in order to avoid movement inside hotels.
Those with symptoms of COVID-19 will be taken from the airport tarmac to the bus and taken to one of the two hot hotels” – either the Holiday Inn on Flinders or the Novotel South Wharf.
Australia’s airport procedures were under examination over the weekend after two German nationals were found to have missed the required hotel quarantine in Sydney before boarding a domestic flight to Melbourne, potentially exposing nearly 200 people to the virus.
NSW police announced late on Sunday afternoon that an officer working his second shift at the airport allowed a 53-year-old woman and her 15-year-old to board a flight to Melbourne on Saturday afternoon, claiming that they had a quarantine exemption.
NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Jeff Loy said the police officer had not reviewed their documents properly.
“We’re not suggesting they lied, there was a language barrier, there were communication issues and the police officer has admitted the mistake that he didn’t check the appropriate exemption forms and the paperwork appropriately,” Mr. Loy said.
The bungle pushed more than 170 unsuspecting passengers into self-isolation on the Sydney-Melbourne flight.
The Melbourne airport security officer, who saw the two puzzled German travellers near the SkyBus terminal, raised a bungle warning.
Prime Minister Daniel Andrews thanked the security guard for his quick thinking and blamed the Sydney authorities for the violation.
“All we can do is work together as closely as possible to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again and I’m really confident we’ll be able to do that,” he said.
The mother and son returned a negative coronavirus test on Saturday, and the health authorities would test the pair again on Monday and the 11th day of their 14-day quarantine on 16 December.
Those on the flight with them, along with five Melbourne Airport workers listed as near contacts, must remain in isolation until the travellers have returned a second negative test.