Cop behind quarantine blunder saved


NSW Police has revealed the officer who mistakenly allowed to German travellers to fly to Melbourne without completing the mandatory hotel quarantine in Sydney will not face disciplinary action.

A 53-year-old woman and her 15-year-old son landed at Sydney International Airport from Japan about 9.45am on Saturday and were able to board a flight to Melbourne without issue on Saturday.

But NSW Police deputy commissioner Jeff Loy said the officer who made the mistake was "very remorseful" and that NSW Police had "doubled down on standards" as a result of the error.

He blamed the error on a communicaton breakdown and a language barrier that caused the confusion. He said he the officer admitted the mistake that he didn't check the appropriate exemption forms and the paperwork appropriately.

"It's a police mistake, we own the mistake and we'll move forward for it," he said.

"Is it fail safe? Obviously not. But we've admitted the error. When you consider there's two people out of 100,000 passengers since March this year in this operation, it really is outstanding."

"We don't propose any action against the officer. We actually recommend that police do come forward when they make honest mistakes to tell the truth."


The quarantine breach was discovered by an alert employee at Melbourne airport and sent dozens of their fellow passengers into home quarantine.

"After being cleared, all travellers were directed to board a bus to hotel quarantine, before the pair advised that they were booked on a flight to Melbourne," the statement said.

"Police made inquiries as to travel and exemptions, which subsequently allowed the pair to travel to Melbourne on a domestic flight under standard protocols for exempt travellers."



On arrival in Melbourne, Victorian authorities advised NSW Health the pair was not granted an approved exemption.

They were escorted to hotel quarantine, where they remain. They have since tested negative for coronavirus.

It was a security worker at the airport who first picked up on the breach, before raising the alarm.

Following an investigation, NSW Police acknowledged it was police error that led to the incident.

"The NSW Police Force has since conducted a review into the circumstances of the incident and identified police had incorrectly allowed the two travellers to proceed to Melbourne," the statement said.

"Police practices and systems at the airport have also been reviewed and strengthened as a result of this incident."


Two overseas passengers arrived at the Virgin Australia terminal at Melbourne Airport, after they were allowed to skip quarantine in New South Wales. Picture: Ian Currie
Two overseas passengers arrived at the Virgin Australia terminal at Melbourne Airport, after they were allowed to skip quarantine in New South Wales. Picture: Ian Currie

The incident was made public on Saturday night, when anyone who travelled on flight VA 838 from Sydney to Melbourne that afternoon was ordered to quarantine at home and contact Victorian health authorities.

There were 170 passengers and six crew on the flight.

Earlier on Sunday, the Australian Border Force released a statement saying its officers were not to blame.

The ABF said it is responsible only for clearing people who arrive in Australia from overseas, and the two travellers met all customs and immigration requirements.

"From that point, the responsibility for the passengers passes to state and territory authorities for hotel quarantine and onwards domestic travel, if relevant," the statement said.

"The ABF will continue to assist state and territory authorities as required."

Victoria will begin to again accept international travellers on Monday into its revamped hotel quarantine system.

Originally published as Cop behind quarantine blunder saved