South Australia has volunteered to host a 14-day trial of home quarantine for fully vaccinated returning travellers – new arrangements that could alleviate pressure on the hotel quarantine system.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said leaders at national cabinet are hopeful the trial will be successful.
“I think this is an important development,” he told reporters on Friday afternoon, following the meeting.
“You have a great opportunity for Australians who are vaccinated to be able to leave Australia and come back and put no pressure on the hotel quarantine system and that can see some of these restrictions ease with very low risk.”
Mr Morrison said national cabinet received advice that the program should focus first on vaccinated Australians for inclusion in the trial. The pilot program will also prioritise travel to and from low-risk COVID-19 countries.
“That will be a transparent project with all the other states and territories,” he said.
“It will be run, of course, by South Australia but with the active engagement and visibility of all the other states and territories. So they are in a position to pick up that project on the completion of a successful pilot program.”
A firm date for the trial has yet to be finalised.
Speaking after last week’s national cabinet meeting, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said evidence shows seven days of home quarantine for a fully vaccinated person could deliver “very similar” risk outcomes to 14 days in hotel quarantine.
Vaccination status rules for travellers
Speaking about travel in and out of Australia, Mr Morrison said the federal government has facilitated 29 scheduled commercial flights to land in Darwin.
“That should see us taking in around 4,000 people per month into Howard Springs and fully utilising the quarantine capacity at the national resilience facility at Howard Springs,” he said.
From next Friday, all arrivals into Australia will have to officially declare their vaccination status.
Mr Morrison said the move would provide information to states about how to manage future quarantine arrangements.
He said the federal government would have a “strong preference” for Australians who are vaccinated when thinking about about travel exemptions for outbound travel from Australia.
“For those who are unable for medical reasons to receive a vaccination or or at this point in the cycle they may not have access to a vaccination, those are issues that will be taken into account by the Border Force Commissioner in considering those arrangements,” he said.
New advertising campaign
Mr Morrison said that by Saturday, the vaccine rollout will have reached the milestone of nine million doses administered – achieving a rate of one million doses every week.
“That puts us in a very strong place to be able to get this job done as we move towards the end of the year and indeed perhaps sooner than that,” he said.
He reiterated earlier comments thatto help the nation deliver a projected four million doses in August – from 2.8 million right now.
A new advertising campaign will be launched on Sunday to coincide with the boost in Pfizer supplies.
He said even with the new supplies, Australians over 70 will remain the focus of the vaccine rollout.
“Older Australians are still the most vulnerable. And that’s why we would implore people who have eligibility for those vaccines now to go and get them and especially if you are waiting on your second dose and it’s on AstraZeneca,” he said.
NSW tightens restrictions after 44 new local cases
The prime minister continued to defend the handling of the rollout and recent outbreaks around the country.
“We’ve saved over 30,000 lives in this country by ensuring that we did not lose that battle in the first round against the coronavirus,” he said, rejecting claims that the slow rate of vaccinations has contributed to the Sydney outbreak.
“It was always known at this time of the year, in July of this year, that we would still be in the suppression phase and that means that in the suppression phase, you need to keep your systems as tight as possible.
“We’ve had breaches here, and when there are breaches it’s about trying to contain it as quickly as possible, which is what the NSW government is doing.”
Mr Morrison said the federal government is considering providing further assistance for NSW residents.
“The Commonwealth government will continue to provide support necessary to give effect to those restrictions and to ensure that the NSW economy and the people of Sydney, in particular, are supported through what is this very difficult time.”