Victoria to recommence international hotel quarantine in December

Victoria will recommence receiving international travellers from December 7, marking the return of international hotel quarantine four months after the program that sparked the state's second wave of coronavirus was shut down.

An Andrews government spokeswoman said on Friday that Victoria had asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison to lock in the date of December 7 "to allow the final preparations for Victoria's reset quarantine accommodation program for returned travellers to take place".

Premier Daniel Andrews said Victoria had already made its first preparations to receive returning travellers again.Credit:Getty

It comes a fortnight after retired judge Jennifer Coate released the interim report into Victoria’s botched hotel quarantine scheme and means the government now has 17 days to ensure the new quarantine system operates with "clear control and accountability structures in place", as recommended by Ms Coate.

Her report suggested a hybrid model of hotel and home quarantine, where international arrivals from low-risk countries could be electronically monitored at home via smartphone technology or even ankle or wrist bracelets.

Ms Coate also recommended that where hotels were used, police should be on-site 24 hours a day and each hotel should have a dedicated infection prevention and control unit as well as independent safety auditing.

Premier Daniel Andrews has yet to formally respond to the interim report and the government spokeswoman said they will release further details about the revamped hotels program "soon".

Private security firms were contracted to guard returned travellers at Melbourne’s Stamford Plaza hotel.Credit: Getty Images

Mr Andrews revealed the first hints on Thursday, suggesting all workers will be contracted directly by the government or will not be allowed to work anywhere outside the quarantine hotel to avoid the confusion and poor training of private security guards that occurred in the state's first hotel quarantine.

"We will [also] advance contact trace very single person who works in this program to work out who they live with, what those people do for a living," the Premier said.

"For instance, we don't want a situation where someone is sharing a house with an aged care worker. That would be an unreasonable risk."

International arrivals in Melbourne will initially be capped at 160 passengers a day or 1120 per week, lifting Australia's weekly cap to almost 8000 people.

As coronavirus numbers rage through the northern hemisphere, including a daily record of 181,000 new cases last week in the United States, more than 29,000 Australians were last month registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Andrews warned on Thursday that no hotel quarantine arrangement was risk-free and pointed to South Australia's recent outbreak, which, similarly to Victoria's second wave, was sparked by a private security guard contracting COVID-19 in a hotel.

"They key point here though is to manage that and to have a framework," the Premier said.

"We'll make further announcements about rigorous testing – very, very frequent testing of everybody who works in this environment … we are well and truly alive to all those risks."

In her interim report, Ms Coate said ultimate responsibility must lie with the department and minister in charge of the hotels, which is currently Attorney-General Jill Hennessey's Justice Department.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos resigned over the botched hotels program in September, saying she disagreed with Mr Andrews' evidence to the inquiry that Ms Mikakos and her Health Department was "accountable" for the hotels.

The hotel quarantine inquiry's final report, which will further examine accountability and faults in the program, will be handed down on December 21.

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