All international passenger flights to Melbourne Airport are now suspended until the middle of July to help combat a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases.
Speaking at a media conference on Tuesday evening, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he has asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison to divert international flights from Melbourne for the next two weeks.
"Today's flights will be the last ones for a period of two weeks," Andrews said.
The Federal Government later responded with a directive banning all overseas passenger flights from arriving into Melbourne between 12.01am Thursday July 2 and 11.59pm Tuesday July 14, 2020.
inbound flights are permitted if they carry only freight, but they can take on board passengers for the flight out of the country.
While Qantas and Virgin Australia have suspended all international services, Melbourne Airport – the country's second-busiest gateway – continued to host flights from Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, China Southern, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, with Malaysia Airlines due to resume flights from Kuala Lumpur as of July 3.
Air New Zealand confirms that it "received a directive late last night (Tuesday) that no international passengers are eligible to arrive into Melbourne for the next two weeks in an effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19 within the local community."
"Due to Australian Government restrictions Air New Zealand will not operate passenger services from Auckland to Melbourne from 1 July to 14 July," the airline advised.
However, AirNZ will continue to offer passenger flights from Melbourne to Auckland during this period. The planes for these services will be flown into Melbourne with only cargo on board, and will then return to New Zealand carrying passengers.
It's expected that airlines will reroute Melbourne-bound passengers via Sydney and other international airports, where they would spend 14 days in hotel quarantine before making their way to Melbourne, or their final destination within Australia, on a domestic flight.
"I will have conversations with other state leaders to explain that and to thank them in advance for the extra load that they will carry," Andrews said.
Andrews has also announced a judicial inquiry into the management of the state's hotel quarantine procedures after a "significant number" of outbreaks between late May and early June were attributed to staff members at hotels used for quarantine stays breaching infection control protocols.
During the shut-down of international flights, the state's hotel quarantine system will be "reset" under the supervision of Corrections Victoria.
Victoria has recorded a fortnight of consecutive double-digit daily increases, with majority of new cases attributed to community transmission.
36 Melbourne suburbs identified as coronavirus hotspots will be put into lockdown from midnight on Wednesday July 1, with residents permitted to leave home only to obtain food and supplies, medical care or care-giving, to exercise, and to attend work or education.