State and federal authorities approved a COVID-positive family of three to fly from south-east Asia into South Australia last week on a privately-funded medevac flight.
It comes as criticism continues to grow over unfair travel policies that favour the rich and powerful, and leave everyday Australians thrown off expensive repatriation flights and stranded overseas.
Additionally, it is understood that SA Health and the federal government were aware that the family had tested positive for COVID-19 before the flight was approved to enter Australia, making it perhaps the first flight to be approved for entry into Australia with confirmed cases onboard.
Previously, citizens on repatriation flights, particularly those returning from India during the country’s third wave of infection, have been denied the right to board the flight back to Australia if they test positive for COVID-19.
The exact location from which the family came from has not yet been revealed.
Despite this, the flight was sanctioned by both SA Health and federal officials, and arrangements were made to provide ground transport to the family in order to move them into the SA medi-hotel system upon arrival.
The decision was confirmed by South Australia’s deputy chief public health officer Emily Kirkpatrick in a statement, which said the family arrived in SA last week.
“A family — a male and female adult and a child, from south-east Asia — were repatriated into South Australia last week by a private medical evacuation company,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.
According to SA Health, upon arrival in SA the family was taken to complete their 14-day quarantine period at Tom’s Court medi-hotel in Adelaide’s CBD – a hotel quarantine used exclusively for returned passengers who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The flight was privately funded by the family themselves, and the flight crew used were subject to the same processes as all other international flight crew, Dr Kirkpatrick said.
“The crew had a one-night layover in a medi-hotel, tested negative and returned overseas,” she said.
At the same time, Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles has criticised the Commonwealth government’s lax policies on certain overseas arrivals, following the discovery that a person had been permitted by the government to travel back and forth between Indonesia and Australia multiple times during the pandemic, and ultimately began a COVID cluster in Brisbane.
“[That traveller] had been allowed to come and go between Australia and Indonesia repeatedly throughout this pandemic by the Morrison government,” Miles said. “They are not vaccinated, and they have been through our hotel quarantine several times.”
The Deputy Premier said that international borders “are not genuinely closed”, attacking the government’s decisions to allow certain travellers to breach widely held policies on entering and exiting the country.
“It turns out the only thing that’s required to get a permit from the federal government to leave the country is proof you have a meeting in another country,” he said.
“It’s not good enough that just because you can afford a business class flight or a charter flight you can breach our closed international borders.”
Last month, it was revealed that at least 113 private international flights have landed in Australia since April 2020, despite the country’s closed borders and quarantine caps limiting arrivals.
Data released by aviation data group Cirium showed the US was the origin for 94 of the trips, some of which have involved actors jetting in to film Disney’s Marvel films, as well as those on important business trips.
For the vast majority of the pandemic, policy has suggested that only Australian citizens, permanent residents and a limited number of visa holders are allowed to enter Australia.
However, exceptions are being made to foreign nationals that the government believes will generate income for the economy, such as actors and comedians, and many are allowed to organise home quarantine rather than hotel isolation.