First batch of quarantined air travellers leave hotels today
Thousands of Australian travellers being kept in mandatory quarantine across the country are set to end their two-week confinement in time for Easter.
About 1300 people who arrived at Sydney Airport after the clampdown on March 29 are finishing their 14-day quarantine on Saturday, NSW Police said.
They will undergo a final health check before they are allowed to leave for their homes around the country.
Police are overseeing the departures, assisted by health authorities, the Australian Defence Force and hotel staff.
Coaches will run to Sydney's airport throughout the day, but some won't be able to return to their home states on Saturday due to flight schedules.
"The operation will run each day as returned travellers continue to complete their mandatory quarantines and depart hotels across Sydney CBD."
The NSW health minister issued an order directing all overseas arrivals to go directly to a quarantine facility from March 29 to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
During their stays, some of the returning travellers stuck in quarantine hotels complained that their situation was "worse than jail".
Common concerns were the lack of fresh air and confusion over would provide much needed medicines. More trivial grips included the quality of the food and alcohol limits.
One quarantined vegan couple complained they were "starving", having been served a dinner of fish they couldn't eat. They claimed they received "two pears and a bread roll" as a substitute.
A man leaving his hotel described the entire ordeal as "terrible".
"It was just a nightmare … you really felt like you were in prison," he told reporters.
Forced quarantine for international travellers is expected to remain in place, with medical advisers at both federal and state levels warning it is "too early" for Australia to start thinking about easing its coronavirus restrictions, despite the country's positive numbers.
"We have to sustain the quality of our response so that we can continue to give you low numbers every day, but it's certainly too early to be talking about relaxation at the moment," Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said this afternoon.
He stressed there was no single "telltale indicator" that would tell the government when to start winding back the rules.
Originally published as 'Nightmare' hotel quarantine ends