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Air and maritime quarantine

In March 2020, Public Health Orders were made by the NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Heavy penalties apply if you don’t comply with the order.

The Public Health Order directs that if you arrive in NSW by aircraft and have been in a country other than Australia within 14 days before arriving, you must be quarantined for 14 days. This is covered under the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 2) 2020. The direction does not apply to flight crew (arriving as flight crew on a flight) into NSW.

Those who arrive in NSW on a boat from a port outside of NSW must be quarantined for 14 days as directed by NSW Police. This is covered under Public Health (COVID-19 Maritime Quarantine) Order (No 2) 2020.

I live in NSW. Can I self-isolate/ quarantine at home?

No. International passengers arriving at Sydney airport will be transported to hotels where they must stay for a strict 14-day quarantine period. The costs of accommodation and essentials will be paid for by the NSW Government.

What if I am just transiting through NSW to an international location?

International transit passengers arriving into Australia can depart on another international flight if your transit time is less than 8 hours and you can stay airside (i.e. in the transit zone). This will be possible only if your bags have been checked through to your next destination. You do not need to apply for an exemption and are able to continue your journey to another country.

If you go through immigration, you will require an exemption.

If your departure flight is between 8 to 72 hours after arrival flight, you will be taken to a quarantine hotel to wait until your departing flight. An exemption must be approved.

To apply for an exemption refer to Exemptions for air and maritime quarantine.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (Symptoms include cough, sore/scratchy throat, shortness of breath or fever), let a member of the airline know immediately, or if you are in the airport tell a biosecurity officer or a health official.

What if I am transiting through NSW to another location in Australia?

If you arrive in NSW from overseas, you must go into quarantine for 14 days before continuing your journey to another state or territory. After this isolation period you can transit domestically and travel home.

Across Australia, states and territories have their own quarantine rules in place. Some require approval to travel across borders from NSW, or even a second 14 day isolation period when you arrive.

For the latest information visit Australian Interstate Quarantine.

Do unaccompanied minors need to quarantine?

On 29 March, an exemption was granted for unaccompanied children who are being picked up by a parent or guardian at the airport. For more information, refer to Letter from the Chief Health Officer - Travel of unaccompanied children to NSW, Australia.

Do I have to go into quarantine if I have a disability?

Yes. If you have special requirements, please speak with one of the healthcare staff that are available at the quarantine hotel. If you are travelling with a carer, that person must accompany you into quarantine and remain there with you under the same conditions for the 14-day period.

Exemptions for air and maritime quarantine

Most exemptions are only granted for medical, health or compassionate grounds, or the person is transiting out of NSW to an international destination other than a Pacific Island country (in this instance, New Zealand is not considered a Pacific Island country).

If you would like to apply for an exemption it is strongly recommended that you complete the online form at Exemptions for air and maritime quarantine to help streamline the process and provide a timely response to your application.

How long before I fly to NSW do I need to apply for an exemption?

You should apply up to 2 weeks before your travel dates. Applications are prioritised by the date of arrival into NSW.

How long does it take to decide about my application?

Due to the current situation, we are receiving high volumes of applications. We will aim to have a decision provided to you within 72 hours. It might take longer if we don’t have all the information we need.

If you are transiting through NSW and you have not received a response 48 hours before you travel, we can be contacted at MOH-COVID19-Quarantine@health.nsw.gov.au.

What documents should I provide with my application?

Providing the right information will make it easier for us to process your application.

The information you need to provide depends on the reason you are asking for an exemption:

I am a passenger transiting to an overseas destination

The information you need to give us includes:

  • passport
  • arrival flight number, date and time into Sydney
  • departure flight number, date and time leaving Sydney.

I have a medical, psychological or other health issue that is more appropriately managed outside a quarantine facility or medical facility

The information you need to give us includes:

  • documentation from your treating doctor outlining the health issue
  • plan of how you will safely isolate at home if exemption is granted.

I have an intellectual, developmental or other disability and need special equipment and/or support for my health and wellbeing that is not available in the quarantine facility or medical facility

The information you need to give us includes:

  • documentation from your treating clinician identifying the special equipment and/or support you need
  • plan of how you will safely isolate at home if exemption is granted.

I have a mental or psychological condition that is likely to be seriously made worse by being in a quarantine facility, and there is not enough support at the quarantine facility or medical facility to prevent this happening

The information you need to give us includes:

  • documentation from your treating doctor outlining the health issue
  • plan of how you will safely isolate at home if exemption is granted.

I am at the end stage of my life and am returning for palliative care at home

The information you need to give us includes:

  • documentation from your treating doctor outlining the health issue and your palliative care plan
  • plan of how you will safely isolate at home if exemption is granted.

I have a family member in palliative care and am returning to visit them before they die

The information you need to give us includes:

  • documentation from your treating doctor outlining the health issue
  • details of where your family member is based
  • plan of how you will safely isolate at home if exemption is granted
  • whether the hospital / facility will allow you to visit your relative, and any requirements you must complete such as wearing a mask. This approval needs to come from an administrator of the facility rather than the treating doctor. Written (or email) evidence documenting these is required for your application.

I am returning to Australia to commence urgent treatment for a life-threatening illness or disease

The information you need to give us includes:

  • documentation from your treating doctor outlining the health issue your care plan
  • plan of how you will safely isolate at home if exemption is granted
  • evidence of a medical approval to fly.

I am returning to Australia for other urgent specialist surgery or treatment and it is not medically appropriate to wait for this care in a quarantine facility or medical facility

The information you need to give us includes:

  • documentation from your treating doctor outlining the health issue your care plan
  • plan of how you will safely isolate at home if exemption is granted.

I am returning to Australia to attend a funeral

The information you need to give us includes:

  • details of the funeral arrangements, including date, location and how you will travel to and from the funeral.
  • plan of how you will safely isolate at home if exemption is granted.

I am a carer for an immediate family member in need in Australia

The information you need to give us includes:

  • documentation from the treating clinician identifying the special equipment and/or support that is needed
  • plan of how you will safely isolate at home if exemption is granted.

What if I am travelling with other people or with children?

Everyone, including children, must submit an application or have someone apply for them. Make sure you include the details of other people or children you are travelling with, so we can process the applications together.

When I go into a quarantine hotel, can my partner/ family come and stay with me?

No. So we can protect our community and slow the spread of COVID-19, members of the general public cannot stay in the quarantine hotels with other family members or loved ones.

What if I need to travel interstate to visit my relative who is in palliative care, who is ill or has died and I want to attend the funeral?

NSW authorised medical officers must notify the Chief Health Officer in each state or territory. An exemption may be required from the other state or territory before you can travel there.

Don’t book your onward travel from Sydney unless you have already been granted exemption because this can cause delays.

Some states and territories have border restrictions in place. Applications for entry or exemption from quarantine arrangements can be submitted through the relevant government website. This applies even if you are a resident of that state or territory.

For the latest information visit Australian Interstate Quarantine.

It is important to know that other states and territories might also need you to go into hotel quarantine when you arrive there.

You may even have to start 14 days quarantine again or meet particular requirements. These things are assessed on a case by case basis by each state or territory.

I am transiting through Australia. If my flights are changed by the airline, is the exemption which I have already been granted still valid for the new dates and times?

Yes, your exemption will still be valid if you have not yet used it to transit through Australia. If you need to transit through Australia again, you will need to apply again for another exemption.

You should advise NSW Health by email to MOH-COVID19-Quarantine@health.nsw.gov.au of your new flight details so that we can tell Australian Border Force (who control entry to Australia) and the NSW police (who manage the hotel quarantine process).

Please remember to ensure that your transit time in Sydney remains under 72 hours with your new flights.

I live interstate and I want to isolate at home. Is this possible?

You are required to enter mandatory hotel quarantine at the first point of entry into Australia. This is not a reason for an exemption from hotel quarantine in NSW, so it is unlikely that this will be able to occur.

What happens when I land at Sydney airport?

When you disembark from the plane, you will be taken through a health screening point staffed by NSW Health staff at the airport. Screening consists of questions and a nurse will take your temperature.

If you are not sick, you will then go through Immigration and customs. Once you collect your bags, NSW Police will collect you and transfer you to a hotel to commence your quarantine.

If you are a transit passenger with a connecting flight out of Australia with a signed exemption, the police will allow you to leave the hotel to return to the airport to catch your connecting flight.

If you are not well on screening, an alternative process will apply. You will need to be assessed for COVID-19 or other health problems. Medical and nursing staff are available at the airport to assess any health issues and form a care plan with you.

I am transiting in Sydney for 15 hours. Do I need to book a hotel?

No, you do not need to book a hotel. You will be allocated to a hotel by the NSW Police and this will be paid for by the NSW Government.

I am a pilot and sometimes return from overseas as a passenger. Am I exempt from hotel quarantine?

Under the NSW Public Health Orders, you are not exempt unless you are part of the flight crew on the particular flight and you are required to enter hotel quarantine. This is also applicable to cabin crew or other airline crew who are not part of the flight crew on any given flight arriving in NSW from overseas.

I am transiting in Sydney to an international destination. I am confused about what the different exemptions mean.

The exemption that may be provided by NSW Health is an exemption from the mandatory 14 days in hotel quarantine which allows you to leave your hotel to catch your next flight out of Australia.

Apart from this, you should also consult the Australian Department of Home Affairs, to see if you are required to have a visa for your transit through Australia. Please refer to Department of Home Affairs - COVID-19 and the border: Transiting Australia.

Note that some may be exempt from this requirement.

Do not confuse a transit visa exemption with the exemption from hotel quarantine that may be provided by NSW Health.

I have a medical condition that is usually under control. What support is there for me in quarantine?

The quarantine hotels all have medical and nursing support provided by Health Care Australia. If you need a prescription repeated this can be done, and the script can be filled from a local chemist and delivered to your room.

There is also psychological support. Any medical or psychological assessment is available upon request at the hotel. Many consultations are provided by telephone where possible due to the risk to the doctors and psychologists providing these services.

If you have a condition that becomes unstable, you will be assessed as you normally would be and if required, transported from the hotel for any necessary tests or consultations. Similarly, if your condition requires it, you will be transported to hospital as you would otherwise be at any other time.

I have a family travelling with me. How will we manage in a hotel room?

There are varied accommodation facilities available. You will either be accommodated in a hotel with adjoining rooms or possibly an apartment hotel, depending on availability.

I am transiting through Australia soon. How long before I travel should I apply for the NSW Health exemption?

NSW Health is receiving many applications at present. You should apply at least a week ahead of your travel to allow the exemption to be processed in time. The exemption should be processed within 72 hours of your application.

If you have not heard about your exemption or received it within 48 hours of your flight, please contact NSW Health by email at MOH-COVID19-Quarantine@health.nsw.gov.au again so that it can be provided to you in time.

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Page Updated: Friday 5 June 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW