The ACT government is considering ramping up the testing of arrivals from abroad after it emerged that a woman tested positive for COVID-19 after spending 14 days in quarantine in New Zealand and testing negative during the isolation period.
Health officials in Canberra are considering follow up tests on the 166 passengers currently in quarantine in the Pacific Suites Hotel on Northbourne Avenue. Their quarantine ends on Monday the week after next, a fortnight after the arrival of the flight on February 8.
A spokesman for the ACT Government said: "One of the considerations for discussion includes asking returned travellers to take an additional COVID-19 test, or tests, after leaving hotel quarantine."
The government is monitoring the outbreak in Melbourne, with two new cases reported on Thursday and the cluster growing to 10.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said anyone going from Canberra to Melbourne should reconsider the need to travel to the Victorian capital.
In Victoria a cluster of cases has been linked to a family inside hotel quarantine at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport, where transmission of the virus has been traced back to the use of a nebuliser medical device, which further aerosolised the virus.
"The positive news for us is that the 166 people who arrived from Chennai [to Canberra] have all tested negative," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
"The chief health officer has expressed her real confidence in our real hotel quarantine arrangements in the ACT. Our health emergency control centre reviews the processes of hotel quarantine after every flight we receive and after every experience of other jurisdictions so we're learning."
The quarantine of the passengers on the flight from Chennai (formerly Madras) on the south-east coast of India comes amid fears that quarantine may not be enough to insulate the country from imported coronavirus.
There have been cases of incoming people infecting hotel workers who then take the illness out into the community.
At the moment, the regulation is that all passengers on board the repatriation flight must have tested negative on departure from Chennai. Tests are then done on day one in Australia and between day 10 and day 12 of quarantine.
The flight was the first repatriation plane to land in Canberra since November and came as the world contended with new highly transmissible COVID-19 variants, which went from infected quarantined passengers to hotel workers in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.
A returned traveller in Wollongong tested positive this week after leaving hotel quarantine, a result that was only known because NSW recently introduced testing on day 16 after a traveller gets back from overseas.
Investigations into that case are continuing, including whether the man has a more transmissible strain of the virus, and whether he caught the virus inside hotel quarantine, as is believed to have occurred in New Zealand.
Last week's flight was the first of two government-chartered flights the ACT has accepted so far in 2021; another flight is due next month.
Ms Stephen-Smith said the ACT would be prepared to receive more flights over the next six months.
At present, the Pacific Suites is the only hotel in Canberra where returned travellers can quarantine.
The ACT government has specific criteria for hotels, including a balcony and a kitchenette. Ms Stephen-Smith said if hotels met those requirements and would be willing to close to regular guests for the quarantine period the government would be "very keen to hear from them".
The Commonwealth government is currently considering whether to tighten the testing regime given the way the virus has come out of quarantine hotels. The ACT government indicated it would follow national procedures.
"ACT Health will consider any national advice or guidelines and align our approach where relevant and appropriate going forward," a statement said.