News Coronavirus International traveller bypassed Victoria’s coronavirus hotel quarantine after communication error

International traveller bypassed Victoria’s coronavirus hotel quarantine after communication error

The passenger tested negative to coronavirus in Sydney before flying to Melbourne. Photo: AAP Image/James Gourley
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A passenger who travelled to Melbourne from the United States via Sydney in September bypassed quarantine procedures in place at the time.

The traveller was allowed to enter Victoria on compassionate grounds to visit a sick relative but was not met by Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) staff at Melbourne Airport.

They travelled directly to a relative’s home after arriving in Melbourne, and later alerted DHHS that they had arrived in the state.

DHHS did not have confirmation of the person’s flight details to Melbourne.

The passenger tested negative to coronavirus in Sydney, before being granted approval to fly to Victoria.

In a statement, a government spokesperson said the hotel quarantine system had been “completely overhauled with strengthened oversight, management and professional standards and embedded infection prevention and control throughout the mandatory quarantine program”.

“A new administrative office – COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria – has been set up with clear accountability and reporting lines, directly to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services,” the statement said.

“These new structures, standards and measures encourage a culture of transparency and openness. All staff are highly trained, and are encouraged and supported to raise any issues or risks, so they can be acted on quickly.”

Confirmation of the incident in September follows news of two other cases where international travellers were able to bypass hotel quarantine in Victoria.

In July, a passenger who flew from the US into Sydney, and then on to Melbourne, told airport staff in New South Wales that he was exempt from hotel quarantine.

Airport staff raised concerns about the man’s claim, prompting DHHS officers to meet the traveller at the arrival gate in Melbourne.

In early December, two passengers who had flown from Germany were allowed to enter Victoria via Sydney after a mistake by NSW Police.

The error was only identified after a security guard at Melbourne Airport overheard a conversation between the travellers and made further enquiries.

In all cases, the travellers returned negative COVID-19 tests.

Opposition police spokesman David Southwick said the Victorian Government was not being open about previous failures of the system.

“It’s all very well to get a reset, but really why has the Government covered up this information and kept it from the public until now,” he said.

“The public have a right to know in terms of what has gone on and the public deserve to know whether there has been more cover-ups in terms of the hotel quarantine program.”