Daniel Andrews has revealed 55 travellers from New Zealand slipped past authorities at Sydney and flew into Victoria – even though the state never agreed to join the trans-Tasman bubble.

The embattled Victorian premier on Sunday confirmed just 23 of those people have been found since he learned of the debacle.

On Friday, New South Wales opened its borders to travellers from New Zealand without the need to quarantine.

But by Saturday authorities informed Victoria that 17 people caught a connecting flight into Melbourne, where borders are not shut to domestic travellers despite the state grappling with a second wave of COVID-19.

That number has since been inflated to 55. 

Mr Andrews said his concern is not necessarily that these people will bring coronavirus into Victoria, but that the government wasn’t made aware of their arrival.

Emotional reunions took place throughout the day as friends, family and lovers reunited with hugs and kisses at Sydney Airport

‘No one is alleging that the virus is high in New Zealand,’ he said on Sunday. 

‘It’s not. What was concerning that a bunch of people turned up, we didn’t know about it. Turned from 17 to 20 to 23 now to 50 something.’

Mr Andrews said he has no plans to close his state, but took aim at the federal government over its ‘gold standard’ trans-Tasman bubble. 

‘We got given a list 12 hours after they arrived, that’s gold standard apparently. We’re having to find these people,’ he said.

In one instance, Mr Andrews said the government’s tracing proved wrong, and that a passenger who he was told had flown to Melbourne was actually in Byron Bay.  

‘My advice to Minister Tudge is instead of stubbornly defending this, work with us and let’s make sure Victoria’s not part of a bubble that we never agreed to be in.’

Mr Andrews insisted he wasn’t looking to ‘quarrel’ with any federal ministers on the matter, and simply wanted it resolved. 

He clarified to reporters that he would not close the borders to returning New Zealanders in the coming days, but wanted to know if they were arriving in the state to ensure they were aware of the rules.

Dan Andrews has blasted Australian Border Force officials for a massive trans-Tasman blunder that allowed 17 New Zealand nationals to fly into Melbourne

Passengers were greeted with a sign that read ‘we’ve missed you’ as they made their way through the terminal to their loved ones

How New Zealanders were able to slip into Victoria 

Victoria is the only state in Australia that hasn’t introduced any domestic border closures for the duration of the pandemic.

While other states have banned Victorians from arriving and encouraged residents not to travel to the embattled state, domestic travellers have been able to fly into Melbourne. 

When New South Wales and the Northern Territory negotiated the first stages of the trans-Tasman bubble, it was agreed that anybody from New Zealand would be able to travel to those two regions without having to quarantine for two weeks on arrival.

On Friday, the first three flights arrived at Sydney airport.

But by Saturday, Premier Daniel Andrews learned that 17 international travellers had then boarded a connecting flight onto Melbourne.

By Sunday, he was told that number was actually closer to 55.

So far, his team of contact tracers have found 23 of the passengers at 16 addresses in Victoria.

But he has also spoken to another passenger, who he was told boarded the flight to Melbourne, who swore she was actually in Byron Bay, prompting concerns that the information he received wasn’t necessarily accurate.

Mr Andrews made it clear that he does not think the passengers legally did anything wrong, but said he was not informed that Victoria would be put in a position where they would receive international travellers.

He said on Sunday that he hopes to discuss the matter further and create an easier avenue for connecting with New Zealand nationals who are planning on travelling into Victoria. 

‘I’ve got no power to stop them coming here. They will come… I think we can be confident that we will be having a chat with them and they will be welcomed,’ he said on Sunday.

‘It is just a matter of we have to go through a process and have visibility of who is coming. I don’t think that’s too much for us to ask.’ 

‘I’ve got no power to stop them coming here. They will come… I think we can be confident that we will be having a chat with them and they will be welcomed.

‘It is just a matter of we have to go through a process and have visibility of who is coming. I don’t think that’s too much for us to ask.’

Mr Andrews said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had thanked him several times for refusing to close his borders at the height of the pandemic.

While Victorians were banned from travelling anywhere else in the nation, Mr Andrews never once closed his borders. 

He said he shares the same hope with Mr Morrison that all borders will soon be open, but argued that did not mean he was comfortable with people from other countries arriving in Victoria without so much as a warning. 

‘It is New Zealand today, who knows what the next bubble is with, who that’s with. You know, we’ve got authorised officers at the airport now because this has happened. We didn’t think it would happen, but it has happened.’     

Melbourne is excluded from the trans-Tasman travel bubble due to its devastating second wave sparked by blunders in the hotel quarantine system.  

‘We have people being allowed in from another country and we were the last ones to find out about it,’ Mr Andrews said (pictured, ABF officer check a New Zealand passenger at Perth Airport on March 18)

The Victorian capital is not accepting any international visitors as it works to contain the spread of COVID-19 which has killed more than 800 people in the state.

On Sunday, just two new COVID-19 cases were reported in the entire state and zero deaths, prompting the government to ease some of the tough restrictions. 

Australian state governments have no powers to detain New Zealand citizens in circumstances like these.

This is the responsibility of the Australian Border Force and the Australian Federal Police.  

‘Surely it is not beyond those who are responsible for the borders of our nation to make sure that only those who are in that New Zealand bubble can receive domestic passengers after they have arrived into an international airport,’ Mr Andrews said. 

‘We are very disappointed that this has happened given that I had… written to the Prime Minister the day before on this very issue.

‘We have had people turn up on our doorstep without any notice without any structure and we still can’t even get the cards as to who these people are and where they have gone.’  

Friends hug at Sydney Airport on Friday – the first day of the trans-Tasman travel bubble

Three flights arrived in Sydney on Friday from New Zealand as part of the Trans Tasman travel bubble arranged between Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured left) and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured right)

When asked if the group would be fined or asked to leave for bursting the trans-Tasman bubble, Mr Andrews said he isn’t sure they’ve actually done anything wrong.

‘I know where they came from and how they got here, as a matter of fact in terms of the method of transport… I don’t know how they got here in a policy sense,’ he said, heaping the blame on Commonwealth authorities. 

The long-awaited trans-Tasman bubble allows those travelling from New Zealand to enter New South Wales and the Northern Territory without completing two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine. 

‘Victoria has not agreed to a travel bubble arrangement with New Zealand and did not expect to receive international travellers as a result of NSW making that arrangement,’ Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Friday night.

‘The Victorian Government has made it clear to the Commonwealth that we expect NZ passengers who have not undertaken quarantine will not be permitted to board flights in Sydney bound for Melbourne.’ 

DHHS said their ‘authorised officers do not have legal authority to detain the travellers on arrival.’ 

A healthcare worker is seen at a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at the Wyndham Civic Centre in Werribee, Melbourne (pictured) as the city prepares for restrictions to ease

Three flights arrived in Sydney on Friday carrying 230 New Zealanders.

Australians are unable to travel to New Zealand and have been banned from travelling globally in all but exceptional circumstances since March 20. 

On Friday Kiwi passengers were greeted with a sign that read ‘we’ve missed you’ as they made their way through the terminal to their loved ones. 

Emotional reunions took place throughout the day as friends, family and lovers reunited with hugs and kisses. 

New arrivals had to undergo a health screening and complete a health declaration confirming they had only been in New Zealand in the past 14 days. 

New South Wales Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said he was hopeful the trans-Tasman travel arrangements would pick up pace. 

‘It’s been quite an emotional day, like living in a scene from the movie Love Actually,’ he said.

‘We’ve got good numbers around COVID infection rates that continue to stay low, and good management practices in place, so I’d be encouraging the New Zealand government to open up their quarantine provisions as soon as possible.’  

New South Wales Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres described the Sydney airport like ‘living in a scene from the movie Love Actually’

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