NSW police allowed travellers to skip Sydney hotel quarantine, fly to Melbourne

The young NSW police officer, Mr Loy said was remorseful, and out of the 100,000 passengers that had arrived in Sydney since March, that was the only such error.
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All passengers arriving into Sydney's international airport are expected to quarantine for 14 days.Credit:Kate Geraghty

A German mother and son were mistakenly allowed by NSW police to bypass compulsory isolation in Sydney and board a plane to Melbourne, triggering a coronavirus scare for 174 passengers and crew members just before the re-booted hotel quarantine in Victoria are due to begin.

The 53-year-old woman and her 15-year-old son, who tested negative for COVID-19, travelled via Tokyo, Japan, from Frankfurt, Germany, and landed on Saturday in Sydney.

Jeff Loy, NSW Police Deputy Commissioner, said a police officer working his second shift at the airport wrongly thought the pair had a hotel quarantine exemption and did not properly review their paperwork.

"We're not suggesting they lied, there was a language barrier, there were communication issues and the police officer has admitted the mistake that he didn't check the appropriate exemption forms and the paperwork appropriately," Mr Loy said.

The mother and son, dual nationals, were escorted by police to the domestic terminal where they boarded Virgin flight 838 to Melbourne, which landed on Saturday at around 1.45 pm.

The pair, who are believed to have checked in online for their domestic flight, made it outside Melbourne Airport's Terminal 3 until a Wilson security guard found them looking confused and raised the alarm with the authorities after approaching them and finding out they had traveled from Germany.

The pair are the first to join Victoria's latest foreign arrival hotel quarantine, which was officially expected to begin on Monday following the suspension of the program after COVID-19 outbreaks spread into the population and sparked the deadly second wave of the state.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the mother and son were found to be "good fortune" before they made it outside the Tullamarine airport precinct, but he needed a framework that wasn't based on chance.

"I think Victorians know too well that you've got to have the most robust system," Mr Andrews said.

The Premier said he would make them if there were improvements that could be made after the NSW error. Around 160 passengers were expected to arrive every day from Monday onwards in Melbourne, he said.

"All we can do is work together as closely as possible to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again and I'm really confident we'll be able to do that," he said.

He thanked the security guard who had identified both his mother and his son.

"On behalf of all Victorians, that employee has done an amazing job and we are very grateful to them and hopefully they are suitably honoured by their employer and if they don't, we certainly will," Mr Andrews said.

The young NSW police officer, Mr Loy said was remorseful, and out of the 100,000 passengers that had arrived in Sydney since March, that was the only such error.

Nevertheless, he said that during airport operations, police would "double down on the standards" and any reports of exemption from quarantine would "certainly be double-checked."