National News

First travellers arrive in Vic for months

shutterstock 1338310370 melbourne airport

The first international passenger flight in two months has landed in Victoria, marking the third official restart of the state's troubled hotel quarantine program.

Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL604 from Colombo touched down about 4.22am on Thursday, with passengers taken by bus to the Intercontinental on Collins Street in the CBD, where they will remain for a fortnight.

It's expected a total of 106 passengers will arrive in the state on Thursday, with more flights expected from Doha, Dubai and Singapore.

Those arriving this week will be housed at the Holiday Inn near Melbourne Airport and the Intercontinental.

The Novotel Ibis Melbourne Central, Pan Pacific, Holiday Inn on Flinders and Element Melbourne Richmond are also ready for use after ventilation works.

The Holiday Inn on Flinders Street will function as a 'health hotel', taking travellers who test positive to COVID-19, while the Element Melbourne Richmond will take guests with medical conditions and complex needs.

The state hasn't accepted returned travellers since February 13, when workers contracted the UK strain of COVID-19 from guests at the Melbourne Aiport Holiday Inn.

The outbreak, which grew to 24 cases, triggered a statewide five-day lockdown.

Victoria's deadly second wave of COVID-19 last year also leaked from hotel quarantine and led to a judicial review and overhaul of the program.

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria Commissioner Emma Cassar said Victorians can be confident in the third iteration of the scheme.

"We have done everything we can to make this as safe as we can and we will continue to ensure the program keeps ahead of this virus," she said on Wednesday.

Under the latest changes, returned travellers will be tested four times, unable to leave their rooms for fresh air without a medical reason, have their mealtimes staggered and large family groups will be spaced out to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission.

Hotel quarantine staff have now all received at least one Pfizer dose, while the majority have also undergone N95 mask fit testing.

Arrivals are capped at 800 in the first week, although that is expected to increase in the second week to 1000.

Another six hotels are expected to join the program as it ramps up, including the Four Points by Sheraton.

Victoria recorded no new local virus cases for the 41st day in a row on Thursday, following 13,291 tests.

© AAP 2021

Image Credit: (By anek.soowannaphoom / | For illustrative purposes only)