Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews says he is disappointed and “frustrated” that more than a dozen passengers from New Zealand were allowed to leave Melbourne Airport and enter the community Friday night after arriving via Sydney.
The 17 passengers had landed in Australia on Friday as part of the first group of trans-Tasman passengers.
From Sydney, they allegedly caught a connecting flight to Melbourne, which is currently not accepting passengers as part of the bubble.
In a statement issued late Friday night, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services said its authorized officials have no legal authority to detain passengers.
Victoria has not agreed on a travel bubble deal with New Zealand and did not expect to receive international travelers as a result of NSW making that deal, the DHHS statement said.
The Australian Border Force declined to comment and said it was a matter for Victorian authorities.
Melbourne Airport refers to SBS News again on DHHS. NSW Health said investigations should be directed to the federal Department of Health.
The Federal Department of Health and Sydney Airport have also been contacted for comments.
Mr Andrews told a news conference late Saturday morning that the passengers left the airport “within minutes” and the state government was waiting for ABF to provide passenger cards for each of the 17 passengers.
“Once we get those details, we will visit each of those people and make sure they are fully up to date, so to speak, when it comes to the rules, regulations, structures we have in Victoria,” he told reporters.
Mr Andrews said he was confident of reaching the end of the matter by the end of Saturday and he did not think the passengers definitely needed to be tested for COVID-19, as they had come from a place without community broadcasting.
But he said he remained irritated by the incident.
“The disappointing thing is that we do not know where these people are, who they are, what was their reason for traveling, or do we have any confidence that they know there are rules in Victoria,” he said.
Ironically, caretaker Immigration Minister Alan Tudge held a press conference in Canberra about an hour later to announce an upcoming digital system to replace incoming passenger cards in Australia.
Mr Tudge said the federal government received Victoria’s request for the 17 passengers’ passenger cards at 8 a.m. and they handed them over to the state government at noon.
He also accused Mr. Andrews for trying to create a distraction from his treatment of the Victoria coronavirus crisis.
The government hopes the digital system will be in place at this time next year to allow more efficient coronavirus contacts to be tracked once international borders open. The system will also allow a vaccine certificate to be attached to a traveler profile once it is available globally, Mr Tudge said.
Liberal MP Tim Wilson said early Saturday morning that he had no problem with what happened.
“I really do not understand what the issue is,” he told ABC.
New South Wales is accepting flights as part of the trans-Tasman bubble from New Zealand. There is no quarantine obligation when people move from New South Wales to Victoria. It is not the opposite.
Quarantine capacity was expanded
Meanwhile, more Australians are preparing to arrive home next week after being stranded overseas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nation’s quarantine capacity has been expanded after the federal government and the Northern Territory reached an agreement allowing a mining camp south of Darwin to be used for returning travelers.
Eight Qanta repatriation flights will arrive from London, New Delhi and Johannesburg in the coming weeks.
The quarantine agreement will last until March, allowing up to 5,000 people to see their 14-day mandatory isolation at the Howard Springs facility during that time.
However, there are still more than 29,000 Australians trying to come home, with around 3,000 being considered vulnerable. Those considered vulnerable will have the first priority for flights.
Additional reporting by VET.
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