Coronavirus: Repatriation flight from Chennai touches down in Canberra

Passengers from the Chennai to Canberra flight board buses to take them to their quarantine hotel. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Passengers from the Chennai to Canberra flight board buses to take them to their quarantine hotel. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
QF117 Chennai to Canberra flight has landed at Canberra Airport. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

QF117 Chennai to Canberra flight has landed at Canberra Airport. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Hotel quarantine measures have been ramped up in the ACT as the city's fourth repatriation flight touched down at Canberra Airport on Monday.

There were 166 passengers on the flight, who will undergo mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine at the Pacific Suites hotel on Northbourne Avenue.

The flight, from Chennai in India, comes amid anxieties around the quarantine system after a series of leaks from hotel workers.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said hotel workers would receive daily saliva testing and staff would be required to wear full PPE in red zones. Red zones refer to floors of the hotel where returnees are quarantining.

As well, all passengers on board the flight must have recorded a negative test when they departed from Chennai. Tests will also be conducted on day one and between day 10 and day 12 of quarantine.

The flight is the first repatriation plane to land in Canberra since November and comes as the world contends with new highly transmissible COVID-19 variants, which have leaked to hotel workers in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

When asked how the ACT would deal with a hotel quarantine leak, Ms Stephen-Smith said the territory could face a lockdown but it would depend on how long the individual had been infectious in the community.

"If it looked like that person had been infectious for a few days in the community and there were multiple potential transmission sites that might be when you consider that really short, sharp lockdown in order to undertake all of that contact tracing," she said.

Monday's flight is the first of two government-chartered flights the ACT has accepted so far in 2021, another flight is due next month.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the ACT would be prepared to receive more flights over the next six months.

At present, the Pacific Suites is the only hotel in Canberra where returned travellers can quarantine.

The ACT government has specific criteria for hotels, including a balcony and a kitchenette. Ms Stephen-Smith said if hotels met those requirements and would be willing to close to regular guests for the quarantine period the government would be "very keen to hear from them".

This story Repatriation flight touches down in ACT first appeared on The Canberra Times.