The first international passenger flight in two months has landed in Victoria, marking the third official restart of the state’s ailing hotel quarantine program.
Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL604 from Colombo touched down around 4:22 a.m. Thursday.
The passengers were taken by bus to the Intercontinental on Collins Street in the CBD, where they will stay for two weeks.
Victoria’s hotel quarantine program has restarted for the third time, as the state government ramps up its vaccination program.
Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL604 from Colombo touched down at 4:22 a.m. Thursday, with passengers being taken by bus to the InterContinental on Collins Street in Melbourne’s central business district, where they will stay for a fortnight.
106 passengers are expected to arrive in the state on Thursday, with additional flights from Doha, Dubai and Singapore.
All will be staying at the InterContinental or Holiday Inn near Melbourne Airport.
The Novotel Ibis Melbourne Central, Pan Pacific, Holiday Inn on Flinders and Element Melbourne Richmond are also ready for use after ventilation works.
Holiday Inn on Flinders Street will operate as a ‘health hotel’, welcoming travelers who test positive for COVID-19, while Element Melbourne Richmond will welcome guests
with medical conditions and complex needs.
The state has not accepted returning travelers since February 13, when workers contracted the UK strain of COVID from Holiday Inn customers.
The outbreak, which has grown to 24 cases, has triggered a five-day statewide lockdown.
Victoria’s second wave of kills last year also fled the hotel’s quarantine and led to a forensic review and program overhaul.
As part of the latest changes, returning travelers will be tested four times, unable to leave their rooms in the fresh air without a medical reason, have their meals staggered, and large family groups will be spaced out to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission.
Quarantine staff at hotels all received at least one dose of the Pzifer vaccine, while 46% received the second. The majority have also undergone N95 mask fit testing.
It comes as Acting Prime Minister James Merlino and Health Minister Martin Foley have announced a goal of 300,000 doses of immunization by May 16.
Two new vaccination centers will be established at the Royal Showgrounds and the Mercure Convention Center in Ballarat to help achieve the new goal.
Community vaccination centers will also be set up in Broadmeadows, Deer Park, Lilydale, Prahran and West Melbourne for residents of social housing included in phases 1a and 1b.
Mr Merlino said the state has met all of its vaccination targets so far and could still help the federal government if needed.
“We are ready, willing and able to expand our agenda and help the Commonwealth, with additional cohorts of people,” he said.
“But it’s a decision the Commonwealth has to make, and we have to make it in a nationally consistent manner.
“It is not appropriate that, depending on where you live in the country, you have a different approach in terms of rolling out vaccinations.”
Four million Australians were to be beaten by the end of March, a target missed by more than 3.3 million as the federal government blames a lack of supplies.
Infectious disease expert Ben Cowie, who advises the Victorian government on vaccine deployment, said the state was promised 40,000 doses this week.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ve been delivered yet,” he said.
Victoria recorded no new local cases for the 41st day in a row Thursday, after 13,291 tests.