Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed the country is considering swapping hotel quarantine for home isolation for those who arrive in Australia from countries with low COVID-19 case numbers.
The idea, which the PM flagged was still a way off, would help solve the problems caused by the country’s arrival caps, which critics say have pushed up prices and reduced availability for Aussies abroad trying to return home.
PM Morrison said on Tuesday that “home quarantine can play a role in the future” and is being considered by the government’s health advisory board “as we move beyond the phase we’re in now”.
He also flagged introducing a so-called traffic light system that would see the country open up first to countries that had lower case numbers.
“[As] we do look to have our borders open up at some point to safe locations, whether it be New Zealand or parts of the Pacific, or places like South Korea or Japan, or countries that have had a much higher rate of success, then there are opportunities to look at those alternative methods,” said PM Morrison.
“As time goes on, we will need a more flexible approach that gives us more options for managing this.
“When it comes in, that will obviously be determined principally by the health advice … but I’m hopeful it’s something we can move to.”
Earlier this month, the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA) urged Australia’s government to review the policy that saw all Australians forced to undergo 14-day hotel quarantine regardless of the location they returned from.
Executive director Barry Abrams cited the example of Australians returning from New Zealand even when they reported no cases for months.
“A transparent framework for assessing risk and how to reduce it would make conditions clearer and more certain for passengers and industry,” Abrams argued.
“If risk mitigation options other than mandatory quarantine were acceptable for Australians returning from some countries, this would free up quarantine capacity for passengers returning from countries where COVID-19 risks are higher.”
The news that home quarantine is finally being considered will come as good news after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Friday that Melbourne wouldn’t welcome international arrivals until November.
Melbourne stopped accepting flights at the start of July as the city experienced a second wave of coronavirus cases. Later that month, the government capped arrivals nationwide to just 4,000 – but that low figure was partly due to the Victorian capital not being able to help with the load.
Premier Andrews reiterated that he can’t restart his quarantine program until the ongoing enquiry into the state’s handling of arrivals reaches a conclusion later this year.
“It depends on what is in that final report in terms of what system, structures … we have reset the program, we are doing some work in the background to make sure that we can respond to the report as quickly as possible. But it is not possible for us to anticipate what will be in that final report,” Premier Andrews said.