International airline crew members arriving in Victoria are now required to enter mandatory hotel quarantine, ending an exemption experts had described as a risky “loophole”.
Previously, incoming staff aboard international flights were allowed to quarantine at home or a hotel chosen by their airline until their next departure, but since midday Wednesday, Victoria requires international airline staff to enter official hotel quarantine facilities.
“Airline crews and technicians employed by international carriers who transit through Melbourne are now required by law to enter mandatory quarantine,” a Victorian government spokesperson said.
“We’ve taken this approach as an additional precaution to help reduce the risk of airline staff inadvertently bringing the virus back to Australia from overseas.
“These measures are consistent with practices already in place in other jurisdictions, including in New South Wales and Queensland.”
Staff from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will accompany international crew members to and from the airport and their hotel.
Crew members will get tested for COVID-19 when they arrive at their hotel, and will be free to leave on their next flight after getting a negative result.
If they return a positive test, they will be looked after at a health hotel until they are no longer infectious.
The change comes after experts raised concerns about the previous arrangements, arguing that airline crew members should be treated as no less risky than other international arrivals.
Burnet Institute epidemiologist Mike Toole said last week the management of international air crew from hotel quarantine was a “potential loophole in the system” which needed to be addressed.
“All air crew who have been on international flights must quarantine in their crew accommodation or home for 14 days after arrival, or until their next international flight. Whichever is shorter,” the guidelines say.
The federal government said it was in constant communication with the airline industry to ensure “operations are as safe as possible”.
“The Department of Health has not placed public health orders on international flight crews, however some state/territory governments have implemented legal requirements for air crew,” the department said in a statement.
“The Department of Health supports the quarantining of international aircrew arriving into Australia in dedicated hotels between international flights or for 14 days, whichever is the least.”