The Guardian: Gladys Berejiklian ‘can’t promise’ there won’t be further breaches of hotel quarantine in NSW

Premier made comments after it was revealed a US traveller bypassed Sydney quarantine in July and flew to Melbourne

New South Wales premier Glady Berejiklian says she “can’t promise” more quarantine breaches won’t occur after Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services confirmed a US traveller bypassed Sydney quarantine to fly to Melbourne in July.

The man, who is understood to be travelling from San Francisco, was picked up at the domestic arrival gate in Melbourne airport on 14 July after concerns were raised regarding his claim that he was exempt from hotel quarantine.

This was during the height of Melbourne’s second wave, which was also caused by a breakdown in systems relating to safely quarantining returned international travellers.

It’s understood the man was immediately detained and placed in quarantine and later tested negative to Covid-19.

News of this event comes just days after more than a hundred people were forced to isolate after two German travellers flew from Sydney to Melbourne without quarantining.

The NSW police deputy commissioner Jeff Loy has stated a “language barrier” caused an officer to mistakenly think the pair were exempt from quarantine and they were “escorted” by police to their Melbourne flight.

Speaking to ABC on Wednesday morning, Berejiklian was asked about the multiple quarantine failures at Sydney airport.

“We have to accept that human error and mistakes are going to happen. I cannot promise that will not happen again,” she said.

“When you are managing that many thousands of people every week, you’re not going to have perfection as much as we would all like it. I cannot guarantee that there will not be incidents like that in the future. Of course they are infrequent.

“We hope they will not happen again but we cannot commit to that … because … we are taking 3,000 a week, and 45% of people who come through Sydney airport at this stage are not residents of NSW so we are taking care of people from all parts of Australia.”

A spokeswoman for the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services suggested it was the NSW’s security set-up at their airport that allowed these breaches to happen.

“Our strict processes ensure that international travellers cannot board another domestic flight in Victoria, as we saw happen in NSW this weekend,” she said.

“All international travellers arriving in Melbourne are being processed airside – ensuring they go straight from the plane to a bus that will take them to their quarantine location. No one arriving from an international flight into Melbourne will be allowed into the general areas of the airport … We are calling on other states to adopt similar processes to avoid these situations occurring.”

The arrival of the German passengers sparked widespread quarantining for more than 170 passengers who travelled with them on the flight, however when the US traveller arrived in July his fellow passengers were not alerted.

It’s understood it was the department’s practise at the time to only alert and isolate direct contacts rather than the current practice of isolating direct and secondary contacts.

Peter Mikha was the duty manager in Melbourne airport on Saturday afternoon when the alarm was raised over the German passengers.

One of his guards called him on the radio and said he had found two international travellers who were confused and looking for where to quarantine.

“If [the travellers] didn’t find the right person to talk to they could have been directed anywhere … When [the other guard] advised me, he was shocked as well, he didn’t realise this was possible.”

The pair later returned negative Covid-19 tests and close contacts have been released form isolation.

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