It’s an exciting day for Aussies looking to be repatriated, with Victorian hotel quarantine welcoming back international flights for the first time since February.
Victoria is hoping it’s the third time lucky for its hotel quarantine program, as authorities spruik stricter protocols to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t leak into the community again.
Some 106 returned travellers will arrive in Melbourne from 4.30am on Thursday from Colombo, Doha, Dubai and Singapore.
They will be taken to the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport and the Intercontinental on Collins Street, where they will stay for a fortnight.
The state hasn’t accepted returned travellers since February 13, when workers contracted the UK strain of COVID-19 from guests at the Holiday Inn.
The outbreak, which grew to 24 cases, triggered a statewide five-day lockdown.
The state’s second wave, which last year resulted in more than 18,000 infections, 800 deaths and a 112-day lockdown, also leaked from hotel quarantine.
COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria Commissioner Emma Cassar said Victorians should be confident in the new hotel quarantine program.
“My message is really simple, we have done everything we can to make this as safe as we can and we will continue to ensure the program keeps ahead of this virus,”
Emma Cassar, COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria Commissioner
Changes to hotel quarantine
As part of the changes, travellers will be tested four times – on days zero, four, 12 and 14.
They will be unable to leave rooms for fresh air without a medical reason, while meal times will be staggered and large family groups spaced out to avoid risk of aerosol transmission.
Infection prevention control has also been ramped up for staff, who have all received at least one Pfizer dose.
About half have received their second, though all workers should be fully vaccinated by the end of April and their family members soon after.
The majority have also undergone N95 mask fit testing and will be required to wear the more protective masks as well as full PPE while working on floors housing returned travellers.
Each worker also has a unique QR code, which records their daily test results, vaccination status and close contacts.
Arrivals are capped at 800 in the first week, though it is expected to increase in the second to 1000.
The Novotel Ibis Melbourne Central, Pan Pacific, Holiday Inn on Flinders and Element Melbourne Richmond also are also ready for use after ventilation works.
Another six hotels are expected to join the program, including the Four Points by Sheraton.
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