About 125 passengers among the first international flights to arrive in Melbourne in almost six months will touch down on Monday morning and put Victoria’s reset hotel quarantine program to the test.
A flight from Sri Lankan capital Colombo – which will land in Melbourne about 8.15am – will be the city’s first international flight in five months after authorities stopped planes from flying into Melbourne in an effort to contain the state’s deadly second wave of coronavirus.
The flight will be followed by five more throughout the day, with planes scheduled to arrive from Tokyo, Singapore, Auckland, Hong Kong and Manilla.
A dedicated agency, called COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria, was established to oversee all elements of the state’s new hotel quarantine program.
Eleven hotels across Melbourne’s airport precinct and CBD will be prepared to take in international arrival guests, where there will be additional infection controls, including daily testing of staff and voluntary regular testing of their family and household members.
The new hotel quarantine scheme also involved a centralised contact tracing team, proactive contact mapping for all staff, a ban on secondary face-to-face employment for all staff and strengthened PPE protocols.
Frontline staff will work in “bubbles” to ensure they only have contact with a limited number of other staff during their shift.
The “bubble” can then be taken offline, with “minimal impact” if one staff member becomes unwell.
The new agency will be led on an interim basis by Corrections Commissioner Emma Cassar. She will report directly to Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville.
Hundreds of Australian Defence Force personnel touched down in Melbourne over the weekend, deployed to assist in the new hotel quarantine set up.
Victoria Police will be the official lead agency in charge of the security of the retooled program, but will be supported by about 220 ADF officers every day.
There will be no private security guards, with all staff working in the program employed or directly contracted by the new agency except cleaning staff, who will be on secure, fixed term contracts with Alfred Health.
It comes after the Hotel Quarantine Inquiry made 69 recommendations about a reset of Victoria’s first bungled quarantine program.
In its interim report the inquiry recommended having a home quarantine model with returned travellers being monitored with electronic ankle bracelets.
It also advised the government ensure hotel site managers arranged daily health and welfare checks on people in quarantine following reports from the past scheme that travellers locked in their rooms were suicidal.
The government has accepted 52 recommendations, with a further 17 recommendations under review – 13 of those relate to home-based quarantine which would require agreement from national cabinet.