Australians are banned from going overseas without an exemption until at least December 17, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced.
The national plan allows international travel once 80 per cent of over-16s are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 – but it appears the Federal Government is not expecting this ambitious target to be hit this year.
Mr Hunt revealed on Thursday that bio-security laws banning outbound travel have been extended for another three months from September 17.
Passengers wearing facemasks arrive at Sydney International Airport off a Qatar Airways flight in May
Mr Hunt (pictured) revealed on Thursday that bio-security laws banning outbound travel have been extended for another three months from September 17
‘We’ve extended bio-security protections to December 17 in line with medical advice.
‘That in particular covers the pre-flight testing and masks for overseas arrivals and the existing restrictions being extended for cruise vessels, outbound travel and retail outlets at international terminals, Mr Hunt said.
Aussies have been banned from leaving the country for holidays since March 2020 and anyone returning must pay up to $2,800 for two weeks of hotel quarantine.
Departure exemptions can be granted to people leaving for more than three months or for approved work or compassionate reasons.
On current vaccination rates, 80 per cent would be reached by mid-November, but overseas experience indicates rates slow and plateau past 60 per cent when the supply of people eager to get jabbed is gone and all that’s left are the reluctant and ambivalent.
Currently 35.4 per cent of over 16s have had two doses and 59.62 per cent have had one dose.
Once the 80 per cent rate is hit arrivals could be allowed to quarantine at home for seven days or enter without any quarantine at all if coming from a highly vaccinated travel bubble country like the US, UK and Singapore.
On Tuesday Scott Morrison said home quarantine was a good solution to containing the spread of Covid while allowing Aussies to travel more easily.
The Prime Minister also said that ultra-cautious states like Western Australia and Queensland should start allowing home quarantine for domestic travel once 70 per cent are jabbed.
Mr Morrison was asked about quarantine in a 4BC radio interview on Tuesday after Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk – who has banned NSW residents from her state – granted NRL stars and WAGs special privilege to enter.
‘I share people’s frustration about that but what’s the answer? We need to move to home quarantine,’ he said.
Pharmacist Christine Kelly administers a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Megan English at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo on Thursday
‘Home quarantine means places for all Australians, for all Queenslanders, on that basis.
‘Right now in South Australia they’re running the trial for home quarantine and that’s exactly what we can begin to introduce once we hit 70 per cent.
‘That means Queenslanders returning home from elsewhere in the country, if [any form of quarantine] is necessary. At 70 per cent and 80 per cent, it would be hard to understand why that would be needed.’
Mr Morrison said home quarantine for overseas travel would kick in once the 80 per cent jab rate is hit.
‘But once you get especially to 80 per cent [you] should be able to return home and quarantine at home,’ he said.
‘The answer for quarantine going forward is actually home quarantine for Australians and to the extent that we continue to have quarantine going forward then what we need is for that to be for international travellers.
‘For workers that are necessary to come in, for backpackers to come back who are vaccinated.
‘If there is a need for quarantine once you’ve passed 80 per cent then that’s what that should be for. I want to see home quarantine become the norm.’
Mr Morrison said lockdowns are doing ‘tremendous harm’ and wants the country to open at 80 per cent
In early July Mr Morrison said that home quarantine should be safer than hotel quarantine because it requires no interaction with staff, but does carry the risk of people not observing it.
‘A vaccinated person doing quarantine for seven days is stronger than an unvaccinated person doing quarantine for 14 days,’ he said.
Australia could adopt a traffic light system similar to the UK’s which rates countries as red, amber or green depending on their Covid-19 infection levels and vaccination rates.
In the UK, travellers from ‘red’ countries must show a negative test and do 10 days of hotel quarantine, while those from ‘amber’ countries must test negative and home quarantine for 10 days unless fully vaccinated.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would likely allow home quarantine in NSW for Aussies returning from overseas once the 70 per cent jab rate is hit.
Mr Morrison’s national re-opening plan allows the international border to finally open for the double vaccinated once 80 per cent are fully jabbed
‘Once we hit 70 per cent double dose we’ll be thinking about, if not before hand, how we treat people in quarantine when they’re coming home,’ she said.
‘If you have fully vaccinated Aussies coming home, do you expect them to be in a hotel for two weeks in quarantine?
‘Can we look after them at home as we do all the Covid cases now?’
Also on Thursday Health Minister Hunt tore into Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk who has banned residents from returning from Covid-ravaged NSW.
The move has left a three-year-old boy, Memphis, separated from his parents north of the border for two months – and stopped people entering Queensland for healthcare.
‘This is a profound moral failure. Let these people in for medical treatment and for a three-year-old to be fully reunited with their family,’ Mr Hunt said.
What are the four phases of opening up?
A. Vaccinate, prepare and pilot (from July 14)
Arrival caps cut in half to 3,035 a week; early, stringent and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available on apps like apple wallet
B. Post vaccination phase (when 70 per cent are jabbed, expected late this year)
Lockdowns less likely but possible; vaccinated people face reduced restrictions; caps for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger cap for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; capped entry for students and economic visa holders
C. Consolidation phase (when 80 per cent are jabbed, time not announced)
Only ‘highly targeted’ lockdowns; lifting all restrictions for outbound travel for vaccinated travellers; no caps for vaccinated arrivals; increased caps for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles being set up with countries such as Singapore; booster shots rolled out
D. Final phase (percentage or time not announced)
Uncapped arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and uncapped arrivals for unvaccinated people with testing before departure and on arrival