Matt Damon is the latest big-name Hollywood expat to relocate Down Under, but there’s a lot riding on his shoulders as he enters mandatory quarantine.
Damon and his family will call NSW home for the next few months as he begins filming his latest movie, Thor: Love and Thunder, as many critics question whether he will be subject to the same stringent isolation guidelines as everyone else.
Dr Zac Turner, the CEO of Concierge Doctors who helped organise Damon’s move to Australia, said Damon and the Marvel team understood there was too much at stake to risk breaking protocol.
“This is a really big opportunity for the Australian population and certainly for the arts industry who has had huge losses around COVID-19,” Dr Turner told The New Daily.
This is a huge opportunity, but there’s a lot at stake.
“The Damons were made very well aware of the situation and the importance of these movies to go ahead and for other people to potentially come at later times if that was to happen. A lot of people are relying on this to go ahead.”
Given the dire state of the coronavirus in the US, Australia is currently best placed to pick up Hollywood’s slack – but only if its expats follow the rules.
Officials are watching closely to ensure Damon’s entourage adheres to self-isolation guidelines and does not bring about any further outbreaks.
The Good Will Hunting and The Bourne Identity star, his family and his team were forced to follow a number of strict procedures and underwent multiple coronavirus tests in the weeks leading up to their departure.
“In this particular case, every person was COVID-screened every three days for the two weeks before they got on the plane. They all had to have negative screens before they could come,” Dr Turner said.
But the pre-departure test is a relatively new protocol, said epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman from the University of South Australia.
“We’ve only just introduced pre-departure testing over the last couple of days, which is crazy – it should have been done months ago,” Professor Esterman told The New Daily.
“It’s not just pre-departure testing, it’s also testing on arrival, because we’ve seen from the tennis stars and their entourages coming for the Australian Open, that some of the people have developed symptoms while they’re on the flight.
“So they tested negative … but by the time they arrived in Australia they tested positive so you can be brewing [the virus] while you’re actually flying over.”
Dr Turner said the Damons and their team were tested on arrival and “then further followed up by an Australian registered practitioner”.
“They had to pay for their own transport … They’re paying for their own private security and police, and they’re being monitored by the police because as we’ve seen in the past there were a few bungles. You can’t just rely on just any private security.”
Aside from the public mismanagement of hotel quarantine last year, a number of A-listers have drawn criticism in recent months for their lax approach to mandatory quarantine requirements.
Star power …
Although other returning Australians or newcomers entering the country were forced to endure a gruelling two-week stay in shoebox hotel rooms under military guard, it seems the rich and famous have their own set of rules.
Actor Nicole Kidman and her husband, country singer Keith Urban, were granted an exemption by the NSW government that allowed them to skip their stay at hotel quarantine and isolate at their country estate.
The exemption outraged many critics who questioned why different rules applied to celebrities compared to ordinary travellers.
Kidman received another exemption in December upon her return from Ireland, which again allowed her to self-isolate at her estate.
The Masked Singer judge Dannii Minogue also sparked anger when she dodged the 14-day stay at Queensland’s hotel quarantine by citing claustrophobia.
“I wouldn’t ask for a ‘celebrity’ treatment or to have anything special granted,” Minogue told The Daily Telegraph.
“I took a lot of time to pull the whole thing together so that the Queensland government were happy, the Queensland health officials were happy and that I’m happy.”
When Mark Wahlberg touched down in Australia in December, many fans were disappointed to learn the actor had also skipped the compulsory hotel quarantine stay.
Wahlberg reportedly flew into Sydney from the US and dodged the mandatory stay before jumping on a second flight to Byron Bay.
Wahlberg then self-isolated for two weeks in the hipster costal town, which at the time was brimming with other big shots like Kidman, Melissa McCarthy, Chris Evans and the Hemsworth brothers.
Though Wahlberg managed to avoid the $2800 hotel quarantine cost, his Byron Bay stay allegedly set him back more than $400,000.