Victoria will resume international flights on April 8 following an overhaul of its hotel quarantine program.
The state’s revived program will accept 800 returned travellers per week before ramping up to 1120 arrivals, subject to capacity and the completion of a newly developed ventilation system.
Passenger flights have not arrived into the state since February 14, when COVID-19 once again seeped out of the hotel quarantine system, sparking the Holiday Inn cluster and prompting a snap five-day lockdown.
It is believed a medical device known as a nebuliser, used by an infectious man inside quarantine, triggered the outbreak after aerosolised particles carrying coronavirus were suspended into the air, causing the virus to spread on the hotel floor.
The man has claimed he was given permission to use the device in hotel quarantine, but the Victorian Government maintains this is not true.
Additional screening for medical devices will form part of the revamped program, following the incident.
A ventilation review of hotel rooms will be completed by mid-April, the government confirmed.
Ventilation recommendations include improving air flow from corridors to hotel rooms and ensuring all guest rooms have adequate seals and exhaust fans.
“There is an evolving understanding that ventilation systems may need to meet higher standards,” a Safer Care Victoria statement read.Other changes part of the overhaul include enhanced Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements across all hotels, with 2200 staff to wear N95 masks.
A new online system will also be established to contact map staff and their households, with a new QR code system.
Travellers will be tested for COVID-19 four times upon arrival – up from twice in the 14-day quarantine period – including on days zero, four, 12 and 14.Follow-up tests have also been recommended after quarantine, as well as a day 16 symptom check and tests on day 17 and 21.
The Victorian Government revealed it would accept all or part of the 81 recommendations made by the Hotel Quarantine Board of Inquiry.
Reviews found COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) staff were well-trained in PPE and hand hygiene.
Two recommendations have been rejected, including that staff wear gloves if required to assist travellers with luggage and that COVID-19 testing should occur in resident rooms with the door closed.
The recommendations were rejected on the grounds that hand sanitiser was believed to be a better option and staff were at greater risk testing travellers inside rooms with the door closed.