Australia First international flight arrives, Melbourne's hotel quarantine begins again
Melbourne's coronavirus hotel quarantine program reopens as international flights resume
International flights are returning to Melbourne with a jet from Sri Lanka the first to touch down early this morning, marking the resumption of Victoria's previously ill-fated hotel quarantine program.The state has again overhauled its hotel quarantine system, with six hotels initially available to house returned travellers.
The first international passenger flight in two months has landed in Melbourne, marking the third official recommencement of the Victorian government's hotel quarantine program.
Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL604 from Colombo touched down at 4.24am, with the first group of passengers bound for two weeks of quarantine at the Intercontinental Hotel on Collins Street in the CBD.
Five flights carrying at least 76 passengers are scheduled to arrive on Thursday, according to a Melbourne Airport spokeswoman - although Victoria's acting Police Minister Danny Pearson said he expected the number of passengers to be just over 100.
Victorian government makes 'no apology' as Brisbane arrivals get mixed advice on hotel quarantine
A man who tried to travel to Victoria from Brisbane before it was declared a red zone says he was forced into hotel quarantine, despite repeated assurances from the Department of Health he would not be. Sam, who did not want his last name used, told the ABC he had booked a 5:55pm AEST flight from Brisbane to Melbourne on Monday afternoon, to see his family for the Easter long weekend.Melbourne declared Brisbane a red zone from 6:00pm Monday night.Sam said he spoke to the Department of Health at 3:45pm while he was at the airport and they confirmed that because his flight was departing before 6:00pm, his orange permit would stand.
The first flight arrived from Colombo just before 4.30am with more expected at 9.50am, 3.55pm, 8.20pm and 9.50pm from Singapore, Doha, and Dubai.
While there are six hotels ready to accept returned passengers, those arriving this week will be housed at the Holiday Inn near Melbourne Airport and the Intercontinental on Collins Street.
A spokeswoman for COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria confirmed on Thursday that arrivals were being taken to the InterContinental Hotel.
"The flight landed on schedule and the arrivals are being brought on busses to the InterContinental Hotel as we speak," she said.
The other hotels ready to be used are the Novotel Ibis at Melbourne Central, the Pan Pacific at the Convention Centre, the Holiday Inn at Flinders Lane - a health hotel reserved for COVID-positive travellers - and the Element Melbourne Richmond on Swan Street, which will function as a complex care facility.
How Australia's gone from being envy of world to global embarrassment
Australia was once the envy of the world by almost completely eradicating the virus after swiftly shutting the borders and introducing a series of Covid-safe restrictions. There have been 29,437 just Covid infections across the country and 910 total deaths - a tiny fraction of the death rate in other nations. Among those tough stances taken to control the virus spread was a ban on almost all outward travel, with special permission required and rarely granted.
Returning Australians are not told which of the six hotels they will be staying at until they arrive in Melbourne, according to passengers who have spoken to The Age.
The state's hotel quarantine scheme was shut down for the second time in mid-February after a new strain of COVID-19 leaked from a quarantine hotel, forcing the government to halt overseas arrivals and leading to a five-day lockdown.
Victoria's disastrous second wave of COVID-19 in 2020 was also the result of mistakes in hotel quarantine and resulted in the first suspension of the program.
COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria Commissioner Emma Cassar said the restarted program would be reviewed daily to ensure all the recommendations from the most recent review of the hotel quarantine scheme had been implemented.
"We have done everything we can to make this as safe as we can, and will continue to ensure that the program keeps ahead of this virus," she said.
"It isn't a risk-proof program, we've been clear on that, but what we can do is ensure that we are ... looking at the research and looking at what else we can do or other control measures that we need to put in place."
All staff working in hotel quarantine have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. Ms Cassar said those unwilling or unable to get vaccinated would be offered other roles within CQV, if possible.
Adult guests will be charged $3000 for the 14-day stay, while children will be charged $500. The fees have not been raised despite significant and costly modifications to the hotels.
Ms Cassar said some returned passengers who have not tested positive to COVID-19 could be given exemptions to temporarily leave hotel quarantine on compassionate grounds.
Universities hope vaccination delays won't hinder return of international students .
The $40 billion a year international education sector has warned it cannot afford to lose a third academic year before international students return to Australia.