News Coronavirus Traveller bypassed quarantine at Sydney Airport and flew to Melbourne

Traveller bypassed quarantine at Sydney Airport and flew to Melbourne

Melbourne airport quarantine
Victorian health authorities have confirmed there was another airport slip-up in July. Photo: ABC
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The Victorian government has revealed another international passenger who arrived in Sydney bypassed quarantine and flew to Melbourne.

The revelation of the latest incident comes after it emerged at the weekend that two German nationals had been allowed to fly from Sydney to Melbourne because police mistakenly believed they had exemptions to quarantine.

On Wednesday, a Victorian government spokesperson said a passenger who flew from San Francisco to Sydney and then onto Melbourne in July, told authorities he was exempt from hotel quarantine.

Airport workers raised concerns about the claim, prompting Department of Health and Human Services officers to meet the man at the arrival gate in Melbourne.

He was immediately detained and placed in quarantine. He tested negative to COVID-19 on day three and day 11 of his isolation.

DHHS said it did not contact passengers on the Sydney-Melbourne flight as it wasn’t policy to alert contacts at that time.

Tracing and testing of secondary contacts became policy in Victoria only in October.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told the ABC on Wednesday morning said she wasn’t aware of the incident but said “mistakes are going to happen”.

“The important thing is, we have to accept that human error and mistakes are going happen,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“What we need to do is make sure as soon as we know they happen that everybody who is at risk or who may have been a close contact of that person is contacted.”

She said with the volume of international travellers, we “won’t have perfection as much as we’d like it”.

“I can’t guarantee there won’t be incidents like that in the future – of course, they’re infrequent.

“We hope they won’t happen again, we can’t commit to that.”

Wednesday’s revelations came as Victoria clocked up its 40th day without new virus infections.

It resumed taking returned Australians and permanent residents into its rebooted hotel quarantine program this week. Several of up to 300 people who have already returned have reported coronavirus symptoms, but none has yet tested positive for the virus.

A further eight flights are scheduled to land at Melbourne airport on Wednesday via Auckland, Hong Kong, Brunei, Singapore, Doha, Taipei and Abu Dhabi, with a total of 127 travellers to go into quarantine.

In Tasmania – which also started taking returned overseas travellers into hotel quarantine this week – a woman and two children were confirmed with the virus on Wednesday. It breaks a 120-day streak without COVID cases for the island state.

The trio are among a family of four who returned from Delhi at the weekend. The woman’s husband has so far tested negative to the virus.

“We said right through this, that in terms of doing our bit to support the Australian effort to bring Australians back from overseas, that there was a likelihood that we would see cases,” Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said.

“They’re being cared for in isolation, with infection control measures are in place to protect staff and other patients.”

NSW confirmed no more locally acquired virus cases on Wednesday, as well as two more in returned travellers in quarantine.

Back in Victoria, opposition community safety spokesman David Southwick said the government must explain why the public and travellers on the July domestic flight weren’t advised of the quarantine breach at the time.

“This just smells very, very ordinary,” he said.

“The fact that we’ve had a situation like this and the department, the government are covering up this kind of information from the public – it lacks transparency.”

Saturday’s quarantine breach that allowed a German woman and her son to mix with the public prompted the NSW Police to apologise for their error.

Deputy Commissioner Jeff Loy said an officer working just his second day at the airport believed the pair had an exemption, despite not checking their paperwork.

The Australian Border Force is responsible for accepting or rejecting exemption applications. State authorities are responsible for escorting passengers to hotel quarantine or further travel.

The pair have since twice tested negative to COVID-19.

-with agencies