Understanding Australia’s hotel quarantine exemptions

An aerial view of Sydney Airport. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Sydney, Australia:

On Saturday, two German nationals who hold dual citizenships (Australian and German) landed at Sydney airport. After being screened by health officials and Australian Border Force (ABF), the duo were supposed to get on to a bus which would transport them to hotel quarantine in Sydney, when at the time they approached a police officer saying they had onward tickets to Melbourne.

The police officer, mistakenly believing the duo had a hotel quarantine exemption, called Sydney police operations centre and checked what the procedure was for exemptions. After that, they were escorted to the Sydney Domestic Airport.

NSW Police have admitted they incorrectly allowed the two German nationals to board their flight to Victoria, and are now reviewing and strengthening their systems at Sydney International Airport.

Meanwhile, the duo, after arriving at Melbourne said they were supposed to quarantine – after which authorities got hold of the case. They have since tested negative, will be retested on their 11th day, and are currently quarantining in Melbourne.

The incident has made it important for us to understand, who actually are exempted from the mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine:

  1. International passengers who are transiting at an Australian airport are allowed to stay within the airport as long as their onward flight leaves within 8 hours of arriving into Australia. For those whose transit time is beyond 8 hours but below 72 hours, they will have to quarantine until the time of their departure.
  2. Exemptions on compassionate or medical grounds are subject to approval by states/territories – and must be applied well before travelling to Australia.
  3. Foreign Diplomats are allowed to quarantine at their mission or place of residence.
  4. Government officials, or their dependents, returning to Australia after official government work overseas are allowed to quarantine for 14 days at their residence.
  5. Australian air crew arriving in Australia are required to isolate at their home until their next international flight or 14 days – whichever is earlier.
  6. Travellers from a Safe Country or zone may not enter 14 day mandatory hotel quarantine. Currently, New Zealand is the only country which has been listed as Australia’s Safe Travel Zone.