First New Zealand Flight Forced Into Queensland Quarantine

First New Zealand Flight Forced Into Queensland Quarantine
A stock photo of an airplane. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

Queensland has reopened its border to New Zealand but travellers on the first flight to Brisbane have gone into quarantine.

Travellers from New Zealand will have to wait another four days before walking into the Queensland community.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk reopened the state to New Zealand from 1 a.m. on Saturday, saying residents would no longer need to abide by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

But when the first flight touched down in Brisbane about 10.45 a.m., passengers were whisked away in buses to begin a mandatory fortnight in hotel quarantine.

A spokesman for the premier said the travellers had arrived on a “red” flight which included passengers from other countries.

“So all the passengers on that plane have to go into hotel quarantine because you had Kiwis sitting next to people from the United States, for example,” he told AAP.

Passengers from New Zealand on the flight were told they would need to quarantine before takeoff and had the option to wait for a “green” flight with only locals abroad, he said.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the first quarantine-free flight from New Zealand was due to arrive on Wednesday.

“There is a national protocol that Queensland has adopted, which splits people on flights who have only been in safe travel zone countries, versus those who have also been in other countries,” she said.

Anyone who travels on a quarantine-free or green flight—where every passenger has been in New Zealand for at least 14 days—will not need to quarantine on arrival.

“Anyone who doesn’t travel on a quarantine-free flight is still subject to 14 days mandatory quarantine,” Young said. “The risk is simply too high to end their quarantine early.”

Queensland has not had a locally-acquired COVID-19 case for 88 days.

There was one new virus diagnoses in hotel quarantine reported on Saturday, with 23 active cases in the state.

On Friday Palaszczuk said travellers from New Zealand would able to travel to Queensland from Saturday and “families would finally be reunited in time for Christmas.”

“I know that is going to mean so much to families that have been missing loved ones for such a long time,” she said.

The decision to lift travel restrictions for travellers from New Zealand came after the country clocked up 28 days without a locally-acquired virus case.

Queensland also reopened to travellers from Adelaide from 1 a.m. Saturday meaning all Australians will be able to freely enter the sunshine state for the first time since March.

There were more than 200,000 Kiwis living in Queensland in the 2016 census, making them the largest group of foreign-born residents in the state.

With the easing of coronavirus health restrictions, Queenslanders will also allow socially-distanced dancing at indoor venues from 1 a.m. Monday.

By Aaron Bunch