Tasmanian mercy flights up in the air

Nick Gibbs
·2-min read

Tasmania's role in the nation's COVID-19 quarantine program for overseas travellers has been delayed with the island state and Commonwealth unable to strike a deal about the necessary logistics.

"Mercy flights" carrying Aussies desperate to get home were due to start touching down in Hobart from next Sunday, but Premier Peter Gutwein said they would be delayed for weeks.

"We haven't as yet been able to land at a position with the Commonwealth in terms of the partnership agreement and the supports that we're looking for, so that is being deferred," he told reporters on Monday.

"We will not take any action that would compromise Tasmanians' health and we will either get that right or it won't be moving forward."

Mr Gutwein suggested it would be "in or around" the first week in December when Tasmania started accepting mercy flights.

There are still tens of thousands of Australians overseas, waiting to return home and each is required to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine on arrival.

Tasmania had previously argued for its share of the hotel quarantine business, but indicated it would require biosecurity assistance from Canberra.

The apple isle on Monday joined other states imposing restrictions on travellers from South Australia, where a coronavirus outbreak has sparked concerns.

Passengers arriving in Tasmania from South Australia must go into mandatory quarantine after SA was reclassified a medium COVID-19 risk because of an Adelaide cluster.

The 14-day quarantine requirement will apply to passengers arriving from SA by air, and on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, from Tuesday.

Travellers will be allowed to self-quarantine if they have a "suitable premises", otherwise there are hotel quarantine places available with expenses to be covered by Tasmania for an initial period.

Mr Gutwein confirmed a cohort of seasonal workers who are due to arrive in Tasmania from Adelaide would be required to undergo mandatory quarantine.

He said further announcements were likely on Tuesday as the situation in SA became clearer, with the possibility of a distinction made between Adelaide and regional parts of the state.

About 900 people who have arrived in Tasmania in the past week have been ordered to self-isolate for two weeks after Adelaide's COVID-19 outbreak.

An initial request targeting arrivals since Monday, November 9, was changed to Saturday, November 7, based on advice from SA health officials.

Mr Gutwein announced the measures after a cluster of cases in Adelaide grew to 17.

Asked if the SA outbreak could lead to more widespread restrictions on travellers entering Tasmania, Mr Gutwein made no promises.

"Uncertainty is something that's going to challenge all of us ... when we need to move quickly, we will," he said.