The Victorian government was forced to apologise for putting travellers from Queensland into hotel quarantine, despite informing them that it would be unnecessary.
Passengers on board Qantas flight QF635 sid they were detained on Monday night despite seeking multiple assurances from Victorians authorities that they would not face quarantine once Brisbane became a coronavirus red zone while they were mid-flight.
Emergency Services Minister Danny Pearson.Credit:Justin McManus
Sam, 27, who did not want to disclose his surname, said after Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton announced that Brisbane would be turning from an orange to a red zone at 6pm under the state’s traffic light border restrictions scheme, he called the coronavirus hotline for advice.
He said both he and his mother had confirmed with four different people that he would be required to isolate only until he received a negative COVID-19 test result, but he was still forced into hotel quarantine when the flight arrived on Monday.
He said the uncertainty about whether he would have to stay in hotel quarantine meant he had barely slept, had constantly been stressed and was “out of [his] mind … trying to figure out what to do”.
Early on Wednesday afternoon, health authorities told Sam he could go home and did not need to quarantine. He said he intended to get the advice in writing before getting on with his life.
“It’s completely absurd that all this has happened,” he said.
Acting Police Minister Danny Pearson, who has oversight of the hotel quarantine program, apologised to the travellers on Wednesday, saying a “small number” of travellers had been placed into hotel quarantine or sent back to Brisbane.
“We don’t want any inconvenience, but obviously we have to keep our borders safe, and we have to keep Victorians safe, and we will make no apology for protecting Victorians each and every day,” he said.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said travellers deserved better than to be given incorrect information by health authorities and the state government.
“The government has had months and months to get it right,” he said. “They keep telling us they’ve learned from their mistakes and they haven’t.”
COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that nine people who arrived on flights from Queensland were still in quarantine. They were expected to be released from the Holiday Inn Airport on Wednesday night, if they returned a negative COVID test.
Melbourne resident Ben, 36, also called ahead after rushing to book a flight from Brisbane as the city went into lockdown.
His flight left Brisbane seven minutes before the red zone designation was due to come into effect. He was told by Victorian Health Department staff that he would be travelling on an orange permit and only be subject to the mandatory test within 72 hours, a COVID-19 test and isolation until it came back negative.
But after landing in Melbourne,Ben was told he had to isolate at home for 14 days. Since then he had received a text from the Health Department saying he was free to leave his house if he his test was negative.
“The information is nonexistent,” he said, “you’d think they would have straightened a lot of this stuff out.”
The latest bungling comes as COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria confirmed on Wednesday that one in 10 people working in Victoria’s hotel quarantine system remain unvaccinated as the troubled program was forced to reopen earlier than expected after the Queensland outbreak.
A spokeswoman said that between 90 and 93 per cent of the total cohort of workers in the quarantine program had received their first dose of the vaccine. The program had been working towards the April 8 deadline when international flights were due to resume.
The Age has asked CQV for details about how the newest hotel quarantine program would be run.
Deakin University’s chair in epidemiology Catherine Bennett said having one in 10 yet to be vaccinated meant authorities would manage the risk by not allocating frontline duties to unvaccinated staff.
”If they end up in a position where they don’t achieve 100 per cent vaccination I think that will determine what duties people will be allowed to do, especially proximity to returned travellers,” Dr Bennett said.
“People who haven’t been vaccinated shouldn’t be placed in a frontline role. People with two jabs are the ones that you would feel comfortable placing them on the floor with the return travellers.”
The reopening is the government’s third attempt at hotel quarantine.
The failure to contain coronavirus within the quarantine system sparked the state’s second wave of infections and the stage-four shutdown, with devastating health and economic ramifications. There was also an outbreak that triggered a five-day lockdown in February.
With Rachael Dexter and Sumeyya Ilanbey
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article