Victoria will only increase arrival caps ‘if safe to do so’

written by Adam Thorn | February 8, 2021
Virgin 737-8FE lines up on runway 34 at Melbourne Airport at sunrise
Virgin 737-8FE lines up on runway 34 at Melbourne Airport at sunrise (Victor Pody)

Victorian Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville has said the state will only increase its arrival cap numbers if it is “absolutely safe to do so”.

Her comments follow the launch of an investigation into how an officer at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport tested positive for COVID on Sunday.

Victoria is due to increase its arrival limit from 1,120 to 1,310 next week in response to Prime Minister Scott Morrison declaring the country will return to its higher December 2020 levels.

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The levels were cut at the start of 2021 following a second COVID cluster in Sydney and following worries that more transmissible international variants of the virus could leak into the community.

On Monday, Minister Neville said any increase is contingent on the findings of the investigation into the recent COVID case.

“If the ventilation review came back and said we needed to make any changes to air conditioning … that would come first before increasing the cap,” Neville said.

“At this stage, we are working on the basis that we will increase the cap from next Monday, but I can assure people we will not do that unless it is absolutely safe to do it and we’ve got the staff and the conditions to do it.”

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However, she also said that Victoria will soon have two additional hotels to use as a result of preparations made for the Australian Open.

Nationwide, from 15 February, NSW will return to its weekly cap of 3,010 and Queensland to 1,000. In full, the new limits are:

  • NSW 3,010 (now 1,505);
  • Queensland 1,000 (now 500);
  • Victoria 1,310 (now 1,120);
  • SA 530 (now 490);
  • WA 512 (now 512);
  • Total 6,362 (now 4,127).

The government’s repatriation flights to destinations such as Northern Territory, Canberra and Hobart do not count under the current caps.

In January, the temporary cuts formed part of the biggest overhaul of the quarantine program since its inception, and also included a provision for passengers to wear masks on all domestic and international flights; for hotel staff to be tested daily and for ex-pats to require a negative result before boarding a repatriation flight.

Arrival caps were introduced in July and sat at 4,000, before increasing to 6,500 at the end of 2020 and then decreasing to just over 4,000 in January 2021.

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