Victoria is considering allowing some returned travellers to quarantine at home using electronic devices when flights to Melbourne resume, according to reports.
The Age has revealed that Victoria’s health officials are already in talks with those from other states about the idea and Premier Daniel Andrews has been personally involved in discussions.
The initiative would have the knock-on effect of helping to solve the problems caused by the country’s hotel quarantine arrival caps, which critics said have pushed up prices and reduced availability for Aussies abroad trying to return home.
The news comes after similar comments by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and sustained pressure to use home quarantine from lower-risk destinations from the industry body representing international airlines.
Tuesday’s Age claims a source has said “secret talks” were underway to introduce partial home quarantine at the “highest levels” of the Victorian government. It then added that a government spokeswoman confirmed that the justice and health departments were both assessing the merits of GPS tracking devices.
The source said that the technology wouldn’t fully replace hotel quarantine and that “preparations were underway” to restart the traditional system, too.
Last month, PM Morrison also 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.
PM Morrison said “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.”
The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA) has also 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 preparations are underway to restart Victoria’s hotel quarantine scheme will come as positive news after Premier Andrews said last month 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.