New COVID restrictions force midflight passengers to quarantine

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Customers aboard a Virgin Australia flight were forced into coronavirus quarantine after the nation’s travel restrictions changed midflight.

Starting at midnight on April 24, the Perth and Peel regions of Western Australia had planned a three-day lockdown period following a possible COVID-19 outbreak.

In response, authorities in the eastern state of Queensland announced that anyone arriving to the region from the West would be required to enter a two-week quarantine period before release into the general public.

Passengers aboard flight VA469 on April 23 for travel from Perth to Brisbane, in Queensland, were originally scheduled to land hours before midnight the next day, when the new lockdown restrictions would go into effect.

However, a mechanical failure delayed the Virgin flight by five hours, making their new arrival time around 1 a.m. The shift guaranteed that those on board would have to quarantine for 14 days in a local hotel before resuming travel in the region.

“We know prevention measures can be inconvenient, but they are necessary to protect Queenslanders,” said Dr. Jeannette Young, Queensland’s chief health officer, in a statement to local press. The Queensland government also promised passengers they would cover costs incurred during their quarantine.

Later, officials walked back their orders after learning that the Perth outbreak had been contained to just three local residents — giving Queensland the go-ahead to release the quarantining travelers after just three days and a negative coronavirus test.

“Had Virgin been formally notified of this change prior to its departure, we would have delayed the departure of the aircraft and given passengers the option to stay in Perth,” Virgin Australia told CNN.

“This would have been in the passengers’ and Virgin Australia’s interests, and is what we have done in the past with border changes.”

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