A delay of a little more than 5 hours caused a planeload full of passengers to be sent into 14 day mandatory hotel quarantine when they reached their destination.
Virgin Australia flight VA469 had departed from Perth, in Western Australia, enroute to Brisbane. But while the plane was in the air, the Australian state of Queensland where Brisbane is located closed its borders to incoming Perth traffic. And as a result, when the aircraft landed everyone was forced into government-mandated hotel quarantine set to last fourteen days. If the plane had departed on it, everyone would have landed under the wire.
In fact, the quarantine wasn’t even announced when the plane took off late. Instead, the snap decision, in response to new Covid-19 cases in Perth and its neighboring region in Western Australia, went into effect immediately on declaration.
The changes went into effect at 12.01am on Saturday morning, and the Virgin flight landed at Brisbane airport around 1.30am, the Courier Mail reported.
An estimated 150 passengers on the packed flight were then shuffled off the plane and taken to the Pullman airport hotel to begin 14 days of quarantine, one passenger, Adrian, told the newspaper.
“It’s just appalling,” he said. “The decision was made while we were flying and we had no opportunity to change travel plans.”
Since passengers weren’t able to become aware of the quarantine requirement prior to travel, the government announced it would pick up the tab for quarantine. The lockdown of Perth ended with the outbreak declared contained and passengers are being allowed to test out of quarantine today.
Australia has had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. They haven’t only limited entry into the country to their own residents, who must race for one of the limited slots for state quarantine. They’ve even intermittently restricted domestic travel between states. While they’ve kept Covid-19 at bay, the vast majority of their population remains vulnerable, and have flubbed their vaccine rollout.
I’ve written for a year about the challenge of regime uncertainty when travel is permitted. For travel to open, people need confidence that it’s safe, they need activities to be permitted at their destination, and they need confidence that the rules won’t be changing.
New York’s restrictions changed regularly, so that residents there who traveled briefly out of state specifically to places that wouldn’t require them to quarantine on return found that the list of U.S. sates requiring quarantine had changed over the weekend.
Last summer passengers off a Qatar Airways flight were forced into quarantine in Italy because while the passengers were in transit rules for entry by Bangladeshis had changed.
When considering travel it’s important to consider the risk that you’ll become infected with the virus abroad (or receive a false positive test) and have to quarantine. It’s important to consider not just whether you’re permitted to enter your planned destination, but also your connecting point in case of flight delays or a cancellation. And it’s worth even considering whether you’d be permitted to enter any diversion point should your flight encounter problems. And if any of these places along the way are experiencing outbreaks and have governments with conservative approaches to the pandemic there’s additional risk.
Until the whole world is vaccinated, we all face continued risks – limits on our activity, but also virus risk. That’s because the greatest threat now in the United States is continued mutation of the virus. The more people infected around the world, the greater opportunity for mutation. So we protect ourselves by helping the world vaccinate quickly. Export controls on vaccine raw ingredients should be lifted (as the Biden administration has just done, in part, for exports to India).
The more than 30 million AstraZeneca doses in U.S. storage should be released to the world as well – that vaccine isn’t even approved for use here though it’s approved in more than 70 countries. With more vaccine supply than demand in the U.S. it’s no longer even needed.
(HT: Paddle Your Own Kaooo)