Victoria will again open its doors to international arrivals, with the first plane set to touch down on the tarmac within weeks.
Acting Premier James Merlino said international flights would return from April 8 capped at 800 people per week before scaling up to 1120 people per week from April 15, subject to capacity and the completion of ventilation works needed in hotel quarantine.
It comes six weeks after the state banned international flights following an outbreak in a hotel that sparked a snap lockdown in Melbourne.
The announcement on Thursday followed a comprehensive review into the management of new highly infectious and rapidly changing variants of coronavirus.
Mr Merlino said the state’s hotel quarantine system had been strengthened.
“We’ve taken the action and time necessary to ensure we have the most rigorous quarantine system possible in place to protect against these highly infectious, rapidly changing variants of concern,” he said.
“The challenges of this virus will be with us for some time to come, that’s why we’ve made the necessary changes to ensure we’re keeping Victorians safe.”
The state has now marked 27 days since its last case of local transmission.
PPE requirements have been standardised across all hotels, along with strengthened end-of-shift procedures and a new online system for easier contact mapping of staff and their households.
Testing of hotel residents will be boosted from two to four times during their quarantine period, with follow-up tests recommended after quarantine.
Victoria’s deputy chief health officer Allan Cheng said almost 90 per cent of hotel quarantine staff had been vaccinated, which was just one factor that put the state in a position to safely resume flights.
“It’s really important to note that this is not the only protection on our vaccinated households – it’s all the ventilation and operational work that’s being done as well,” he said.
“So a combination of all things will make it safer.’
The Victorian government on Thursday released its response to the final report from the hotel quarantine board of inquiry, and Mr Merlino said it would implement “in full or part” each of the 81 recommendations.