We now know even more about how those two international arrivals from Germany were able to land in Sydney, dodge mandatory hotel quarantine and hop on a flight to Melbourne, including that one of the officers responsible for letting them transfer was only on his second shift at Sydney Airport.
The 53-year-old woman and her 15-year-old son landed in Sydney on Saturday and caught a domestic flight to Melbourne shortly after. By Sunday, the incident was major news, and people both in NSW and Victoria demanded answers.
Now, we have insight into what happened at both airports. Here’s what went down.
How were two travellers from Germany allowed into Australia in the first place?
While many people were wondering what kind of international travel exemption would be given to a mother and her teenage son, it turns out they didn’t need an exemption to enter the country at all.
That’s because the mother and son were German-Australian dual citizens, meaning they had just as much right to come home as any other Aussie abroad. Fair enough.
So while it is quite tricky for Aussies stuck overseas to come home, there was nothing weird about the mother and son’s journey from Frankfurt to Sydney, via Tokyo.
Why didn’t police send them to hotel quarantine like everyone else?
The mother are son were actually in the process of being ushered onto a bus with everyone else, until the mother told one of the police officers that they had a connecting flight to Melbourne.
Apparently because of the language barrier, in the words of NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Jeff Loy, the police officer assumed the mother and son had an exemption to skip hotel quarantine.
It didn’t help that it was only the officer’s second shift at Sydney Airport, either.
The officer then rang the Sydney police operations centre to ask what the protocol is for people with exemptions, but somehow during this whole process both they and their colleagues failed to check if the mother and son had any paperwork.
The federal Border Force has blamed NSW for the failure which allowed two arrivals from Germany to avoid hotel quarantine in Sydney – saying they met all customs requirements and that “responsibility for passengers passes to State and Territory authorities” after that pic.twitter.com/Ya9qLLhkuk
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) December 6, 2020
Are they in quarantine now?
Once they landed in Melbourne, the mother and son were overheard by an airport worker who thought something seemed strange. The worker then let health authorities know, and they quickly realised the two had slipped through the cracks.
Thankfully, the mother and son never made it out of the airport and were immediately taken to hotel quarantine.
“They are the first, albeit inadvertent, occupants of Victoria’s reset hotel quarantine system,” Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said on Sunday.
The state’s hotel quarantine system was overhauled in recent months after a series of bungles and alleged sex scandals contributed to the state’s massive second wave of the pandemic.
So far, the two have both tested negative for COVID-19, and they’ll be tested once more towards the end of their 14-day stay.
How serious is this?
It’s pretty bad. NSW was supposedly the “gold standard” for keeping the coronavirus under control. Clearly there are some gaping flaws in the system.
At Victoria’s end, the state has only recently managed to get its second wave under control.
Keep in mind the first international flight to land in Melbourne in over five months arrived on Monday, so people slipping in from other states has until now been pretty much the only way the virus could’ve spread to the state from outside.
One public health expert told the ABC “you might as well call that Ruby Princess 2.”
Let’s hope this whole debacle serves as a massive lesson to NSW Police and other authorities.