Passengers on two aircraft flying from Sydney to Adelaide on Wednesday afternoon were turned back or forced into hotel quarantine after SA made its decision to ban NSW entrants effective immediately.
SA authorities said the decision to return passengers wouldn’t affect local residents returning home, and all people would be dealt with on a “case-by-case basis for those who are in the air”.
It comes as Sydney’s Bondi cluster grew to 31 cases and Premier Gladys Berejiklian introduced some of the strictest COVID restrictions since the initial lockdown last year.
Australian Aviation can reveal the aircraft affected by SA’s snap closure are:
- A Qantas 737-838, VH-VZK msn 34204, which departed Sydney at 12:35pm as flight QF739 and landed in Adelaide at 2:10pm local time;
- And a Virgin 737-8FE, VH-YFX msn 41013, which departed Sydney 2:38pm as flight VA424 and landed in Adelaide at 3:55pm. The same aircraft then subsequently flew back to Sydney at 4:38pm.
Dr Emily Kirkpatrick, the deputy chief public health officer of SA Health, said, “It’s a very, very long list of exposure sites [in NSW] so we will need to go back and ask those individuals where they have been.”
The new SA rules mean all non-residents who have been in NSW within the last 14 days will not be permitted to enter South Australia without an exemption, including people currently in transit.
SA Premier Steven Marshall said the decision was made due to increasing concern over the Bondi cluster in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
“I think by now most people would have realised that the situation in New South Wales is deteriorating, there are additional exposure sites and the number of new infections has increased,” he said.
The hard border excludes a 100-kilometre buffer zone for cross border communities along the SA-New South Wales border.
Earlier on Wednesday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced her state’s border will shut to seven additional NSW local government areas.
The new rules, which will come into effect as of 1:00am on Thursday, include travellers from Sydney City, Bayside, Woollahra, Canada Bay, Inner West and Randwick, along with the previously-declared hotspot of Waverley Council.
Those who have visited a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days will be refused entry to Queensland, or otherwise require an exemption to enter the state.
Meanwhile, returning Queenslanders who have been in a hotspot will be required to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense.
Premier Palaszczuk said the decision to shut the border to thousands of Sydneysiders was made over “serious concerns” surrounding the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, which is currently spreading in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.
‘We can’t afford to have this variant out,” she said.
Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young again warned Queenslanders against travelling to greater Sydney or Wollongong during the upcoming school holiday period.
“At the start of this pandemic, I spoke about 15 minutes of close contact being a concern – now it looks like it’s five or 10 seconds,” Dr Young said.
“We’re seeing very fleeting contact leading to transmission … the risk is so much higher now than it was only a year ago.”
Finally, late on Tuesday, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton Sutton also declared seven Sydney local government areas red zones, effectively banning them from entering, joining similar action from the NT.