The two German travellers who flew into Sydney and then jumped on a flight to Melbourne without going into hotel quarantine were able to do so because police literally allowed them to move from the international terminal to the domestic terminal.
The 53-year-old woman and her 15-year-old son arrived in Sydney from Tokyo at around 9:45 AM on Saturday, according to an internal review conducted by NSW Police on Sunday.
Normally, all international arrivals are taken directly to hotels to quarantine. However, the woman told police officers that she and her son had another domestic flight to Melbourne.
NSW Police now claim it appeared at the time that the two had an exemption to travel directly to Melbourne without quarantining, even though it’s now clear they had no such exemption.
At Melbourne Airport, it’s believed a car rental employee or a security guard overheard the mother and son talking and realisesd something wasn’t right. Victoria Health then contacted NSW Health to say what had gone wrong.
“On behalf of all Victorians, that employee has done an amazing job and we are very grateful to them and hopefully they are suitably honoured by their employer and if they don’t, we certainly will,” Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said on Sunday.
Thankfully, this also means that the mother and son never left the airport, keeping potential community transmission to a minimum. Both of them have since tested negative for COVID-19.
It looks as if the blame is going to lie with NSW Police. The federal Border Force has since advised that it is only responsible for customs, and that once someone’s allowed into the country, it’s up to the individual states to enforce mandatory hotel quarantine.
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
Virgin Australia is also not happy about the situation, and has asked NSW Police how the passengers were able to move between the terminals when they didn’t actually have exemptions.
The plane they flew on has also undergone a deep clean, as a precaution.
“Police practices and systems at the airport have also been reviewed and strengthened as a result of this incident,” a spokesperson for NSW Police said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.
Over 100,000 people have been in hotel quarantine across 17 police-managed hotels in NSW. But all it takes is one or two people to slip through the cracks and undo all our progress over the past nine months, and we’re all lucky it didn’t escalate out of control.