Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 August 2020

What to know if you're flying into Melbourne or Sydney as Australia's coronavirus cases surge

Melbourne has diverted international flights for two weeks and Sydney has capped passenger numbers

Melbourne has recently seen soaring cases of coronavirus, leading the state of Victoria to divert international flights for two weeks. Sydney Airport (pictured) is now facing disruptions to flights as its quarantine facilties come under pressure. EPA
Melbourne has recently seen soaring cases of coronavirus, leading the state of Victoria to divert international flights for two weeks. Sydney Airport (pictured) is now facing disruptions to flights as its quarantine facilties come under pressure. EPA

Parts of Australia are repealing decisions to ease lockdowns as the country braces for a second wave of Covid-19.

In May, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined a three-stage plan to ease restrictions across the country.

However, in the weeks since, parts of the country experienced a growing number of cases spread through community transmission, concerning authorities.

Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced on June 30, that parts of Melbourne would move back to Level 3 restrictions, following a surge in cases. The move included plans to divert flights away from the state.

On July 2, a stay at home order was placed on 36 suburbs in Melbourne, due to large coronavirus clusters and increasing community transmission. Andrews said the outbreaks were caused by gatherings of extended families and failures in hotel quarantine management. Jenny Mikakos, Victoria's health minister, said a "super spreader" could be responsible for many of the new infections.

Victoria reported another 66 cases of the virus on Thursday recording its 17th day of double-digit coronavirus case increases. The state now has 442 active cases – which makes up more than half of Australia's current number of active cases, which is 832.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Australia has recorded 8,255 cases and 7,319 recoveries in total, as well as 104 deaths.

As a result, Victoria requested that all international flights were sent elsewhere for two weeks as it grapples with containing the spread.

The subsequent pressure on other airports receiving diverted passengers has resulted in further operational changes. Sydney, for example, has now introduced a cap of 50 people per flight, and a maximum number of 450 travellers per day.

What it means for travellers heading to Melbourne

Australia's Federal Government has now issued a directive banning all overseas passenger flights from arriving into Melbourne between 12.01am on Thursday, July 2 and 11.59pm on Tuesday, July 14.

Inbound cargo flights are allowed, and passengers can still leave Australia on outbound flights.

Emirates restarted passenger flights to Melbourne and Sydney on May 21, as part of a list of nine routes that were the first regular, non-repatriation flights out of Dubai since March 24.

Etihad resumed transfer connections via Abu Dhabi to Melbourne and Sydney on June 10.

Customers booked to fly into Melbourne with Emirates during the two-week diversion have received an email saying their flight had been cancelled due to "operational reasons". They now need to rebook new flights.

Emirates confirmed to The National that it had suspended flights to Melbourne. ““In response to the Australian government’s directive to suspend all international passenger flights, Emirates has suspended its Dubai to Melbourne scheduled service for the next two weeks," said a spokesperson for the airline.

"The safety of our passengers and crew is our highest priority and we are working with the relevant authorities to minimise disruption. In the meantime, we continue to operate our flights for passengers to Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.”

What it means for travellers heading to Sydney

On Friday, the Australian High Commission to the United Kingdom announced on social media that "Sydney is experiencing significant pressure on quarantine capacity" and that it anticipated disruptions to international flights into the city.

"NSW Government has introduced, effective midnight 4 July 2020, a cap of 50 persons per incoming flight and a total cap of 450 arrivals per day."

This has meant many flights would no longer be viable and would not operate. Travellers with upcoming flights to Sydney were urged to reconfirm flights with their airlines.

The Australian Government's travel advice and consular information service, Smartraveller, later reiterated this information, advising people to liaise with airlines on their travel plans.

Who pays for quarantine in Australia?

If you are repatriating to Australia, you must quarantine for 14 days after you arrive in the country, or face a hefty fine. However, each state has its own rules on where the quarantine will take place and who picks up the bill.

In New South Wales and Victoria, arrivals must stay in state-mandated hotels to see out their quarantine. Costs are currently paid for by the state but this could soon change.

From July 1, the Queensland Government began making international travellers pay for their quarantine period, after announcing they had already spent $19 million paying for the hotel stays.

Individual adults are charged $2,800 (Dh7,133) for the two week stay, while a pair of travellers sharing a room are charged $3,710.

The new measures came as the National Cabinet gave the go-ahead for the country to begin charging returnees for their quarantine. Victoria and New South Wales are currently considering following suit.

Updated: July 3, 2020 07:48 PM

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