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Morrison hints swapping hotel for home quarantine

written by Adam Thorn | September 29, 2020
Qatar Airways Airbus A380 A7-APE at Sydney Airport. (Qatar Airways)
Qatar Airways Airbus A380 A7-APE at Sydney Airport. (Qatar Airways)

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.

It also comes weeks after the industry body representing international airlines floated the idea amid warnings its members would stop scheduling flights to Australia.

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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.

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“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.

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6 Comments

  • Kenneth

    says:

    Use the same system as in Hong Kong. Get tested at the airport upon arrival. Sit and wait 4-8 hours for the test result. Get a wristband with GPS tracking. Go home, activate the tracking app, and stay home 14 days.
    The wristband together with your phone/app register the interference from WiFi, Bluetooth etc signal in your home, and if you move too far away, some kind of alert is triggered.
    Almost daily your app will request you to scan the bar code on your wristband, and even one day, I did a WhatsApp video call, so the authorities could see me wearing my wristband.
    The fine in Hong Kong for braking the rules, HKD 25.000 and up to 6 months jail.
    It’s a good system.

  • Peter Spann

    says:

    The smartest thing Australia did was lock down its borders.
    There is nothing else they’ve done that was as remotely effective as this. International experience has shown us that other measures haven’t worked or have been less effective.
    All you have to do is look at the security breaches in Victoria and what a huge impact that has made in that state to realise that people, unless they are forced to, will not lock themselves down.
    And when you track new cases (outside Vic) almost all of them are people returning to the country from overseas. To alter quarantine arrangements now, or even soon, will put Australia at extreme risk of repeating the Victoria pattern.
    Our citizens were given ample warning to return home. I personally was living in the US at the time Morrison said “Come home now”, and I did.
    I looked at the situation, considered how the US might handle things differently than Australia, our socialised health care, being close to people I loved and the likely border lockdowns various governments were talking about at the time and turned my life upside down to come home, and despite the frustrations, I am glad I did.
    To be making major decisions based on the desire of some people who refused to heed the advice to come home months ago and bow to commercial pressure from foreign airlines and their scheduling demands makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
    If people want to come home let them, but don’t change the quarantine requirement – how about we just make people pay for their 14 day hotel stay?

  • Nicholas

    says:

    Sensible suggestion from the PM, sure the obstructive pair in Vic and QLD will do their but to stymie this.

  • John Holmes

    says:

    Home Quarantine, what could possibly go wrong…..
    Good way to make sure the whole of Australia ends up in a second wave lock down.

  • Kenneth

    says:

    Peter Spann

    People DO ALREADY have to pay for the hotel quarantine, has been in force a while now. 🙂

  • Big Willie

    says:

    Send them all to QLD & WA for quarantine. They’re the covid experts!!! NSW has already taken the majority of returning traveller’s & been vilified for it by our fellow Australians.

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