Melbourne's ban on inbound international flights will continue until at least early November, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed.
Australia's second-largest gateway closed its doors to all overseas flights at the start of July to help combat a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases, which is now considered to have been sparked by failures in the state-run hotel quarantine program.
A high-level inquiry on that program is now underway and is due to hand down its final report on November 6, with Andrews saying on Friday it would "make no sense" to have Melbourne resume international flights until officials know exactly why the hotel quarantine system failed the first time.
“It makes no sense to ask for a report and then have planes landing,” he said.
“I have tried to be as clear as I can on multiple occasions that we will wait for that report before I ring the Prime Minister and say flights can come back. We need to be absolutely certain that whatever system is in place, that it is as robust as it possibly can be.”
“We have reset the program, we are doing some work in the background to make sure that we can respond to that as quickly as possible, but it is not possible for us to anticipate what will be in that final report,” Andrews added.
Since July 2, inbound flights are permitted if they carry only freight, although they can take on board passengers for the return flight out of the country.
The closure of Melbourne as an inbound international airport put additional strain on other state's arrivals and quarantine programs, with the government later imposing a cap of 4,000 passengers per week.
This in turn impacted the ability of airlines to operate flights into Australia, with some flights unable to carry more than 30 passengers so as not to breach the cap.