A hundred metres of blazing sunlight and an asphalt pavement may be their only contact with the Australian outdoors for the next fortnight – but 120 passengers have safely returned from overseas.
The travellers disembarked shortly after noon today on a government-facilitated hub flight from Singapore – the first international plane flight to Canberra in six months.
One by one or in couples, the passengers were escorted out of the terminal and towards the ACTION buses that would take them to a Northbourne Avenue hotel (believed to be the Pacific Suites Canberra), where they will be quarantined for the next fortnight.
As soon as they landed, ACT Health officials screened the arrivals for COVID-19 and other health risks. The passengers will be tested again between days 10 and 12 of their confinement.
At a press conference this afternoon, ACT Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith, said the operation was still underway, and going well.
“From what I’m hearing, everyone is very tired but relieved to be on Australian soil,” Ms Stephen-Smith said. “Everyone’s just kind of happy to be finally back in Australia.”
More information is expected at the end of the day on how many passengers might have needed further tests.
The ACT Health wellbeing team – including social workers and psychologists – will check in with the arrivals every day to ensure they have what they need and are mentally healthy, as well as whether they have any symptoms that may indicate they need a COVID-19 test.
“We do need to support the mental and physical health of people who are in quarantine. Being in quarantine for 14 days is not easy,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
The hotel rooms have fresh air, balconies, and kitchenettes or cooking facilities so that those in quarantine can cater for themselves. This will help them eat more healthily and establish a routine – vital for mental health, the minister explained.
The ACT Government has worked with the Commonwealth to ensure the safe quarantine of international arrivals and protect the ACT community, including preventing and controlling any infection in hotels, Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“There’s no ‘zero risk’ situation, but we’re doing everything we can to minimise the risk and ensure that this can be done safely,” she said.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said another flight was expected in December.
As at today (Thursday 26 November), there were no active cases of COVID-19 in the ACT; the most recent case had recovered.
The ACT Government has a dedicated COVID-19 website for all information about the health and economic response to the pandemic in the ACT. For further information, visit covid19.act.gov.au.
The ACT Government also has a helpline to assist Canberrans through the challenges of COVID-19. The COVID-19 Helpline is 6207 7244, available between 8am and 8pm daily.
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