The Victorian government has confirmed a restart of international flights from April 8 but arrivals will initially be limited to 800 passengers per week.
The cap is expected to increase to 1120 per week but the government said Thursday this would be subject to capacity and the completion of ventilation upgrades in hotels.
There will also be increased testing of incoming arrivals and new requirements for quarantine hotels.
There have been no international passengers arriving in Melbourne since February 14, when an outbreak traced to a Holiday Inn prompted a five-day lockdown.
The Victorian government kept international flights closed because of worries ventilation in quarantine hotels could spread new, more infectious strains of the COVID.
It is also looking at 10 shortlisted sites for a stand-alone accommodation hub. These will be narrowed to one site and a final business case presented to the government.
It said its decision to resume international flights came after a comprehensive expert review of the new COVID variants and an evaluation of how each quarantine hotel could respond to “this ever-changing virus”.
The impact of vaccinations on hotel quarantine staff was also a factor with 4150 frontline quarantine workers now having received their first dose.
“Changes to the program will ensure our system is adapting to respond to infectious new variants – in addition to future challenges like the Federal Government resuming international flights – including developing a new Victorian standard for ventilation systems and upgrading hotels where necessary to comply with the standard,’’ a government statement said.
“PPE requirements have been standardized across all hotels to bring them in line with Health and Complex Care hotel practices, 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, based on medical advice.”
The on-again, off-again nature of international flights into Victoria recently prompted warnings that overseas airlines could shy away from the state unless there was certainty.
“Each time international arrivals are paused we see international airlines reconsider their engagement to Melbourne, something which will hamper the State’s recovery from COVID,’’ Melbourne Airport chief executive Lyell Strambi said.