Victoria has followed the lead of Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) by cracking down on a “loophole” that allowed international airline crew to avoid hotel quarantine.
New laws make it mandatory for airline crews and technicians from international carriers transiting through Melbourne to enter the state’s rebooted hotel quarantine system.
Under a previous exemption, incoming flight staff from overseas were allowed to quarantine at home or an airline-approved hotel until departure.
That was no longer permitted from midday on Wednesday.
Victoria’s COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said about 100 international aircrew members are now based at a quarantine hotel near Melbourne airport.
“This is our way of keeping the airline industry flying,” he told reporters on Thursday.
The new rules are similar to those recently introduced in Queensland and NSW, where a Qantas crew member tested positive for coronavirus after flying from Darwin to Sydney without quarantining.
A government spokeswoman told AAP the approach was an additional precaution to help reduce the risk of airline staff inadvertently bringing the virus into Australia from overseas.
Of the over 250 international aircrew tested when leaving the airport, Weimar said two have returned positive results before being moved to the so-called “hot hotel” Novotel at South Wharf.
The Herald Sun reported that an airline diverted a plane to Sydney to circumvent the new rules, but Weimar insists the response from over 30 international airlines has been “very positive.”
“Our position is non-negotiable,” he said. “We want to ensure that their crew are safe, that their crew are tested when they arrive, and that their crew are securely accommodated … so that they can continue to run their services.”
It comes as Victoria recorded its 55th straight day without a locally acquired COVID-19 case.
No new cases were recorded on Thursday, either in the community or from interstate or returned overseas travellers.
There are 10 active cases in the state and 19,229 tests were processed in the previous 24 hours.
Victoria’s border will remain closed to NSW over Christmas following Sydney’s northern beaches outbreak.
That cluster grew to 104 cases on Thursday. Victoria previously declared greater Sydney and the NSW Central coast “red zones.”
A 15-year-old girl who visited several NSW hotspots returned to Melbourne last week before testing positive.
There are no known exposure sites in Victoria and the girl is quarantining at home with her family, who have so far tested negative.