WA Premier Mark McGowan has said allowing repatriated Australians to quarantine at home on their return would be a “recipe for disaster”.
The comments come after Prime Minister Scott Morrison floated the idea of home isolation at the weekend for those who need to leave Australia for essential purposes.
However, Premier McGowan, who has overseen the country’s most stringent domestic border policies, queried why so many Australians are returning with COVID despite needing a negative test to board the aircraft.
“You are meant to be COVID-negative before you get on the plane, and yet we keep having lots of people coming in who are COVID-positive,” Premier McGowan said. “I don’t know why that’s occurring, I don’t know if people are providing fraudulent certificates, I don’t know if they’re getting COVID on the aircraft.”
He also criticised comments from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian suggesting Australia should open its borders when everyone has been vaccinated.
“These calls from NSW to bring down the international borders are mad,” Premier McGowan said. “I don’t understand why they are pursuing this. Haven’t they seen what’s happening in India?
“Haven’t they seen what’s happening in Britain? Haven’t they seen what’s happening in France? In Brazil? Bringing down international borders at this time, or having reduced measures where people just quarantine at home en masse when they return from overseas is a recipe for disaster.”
The comments come amid concerns Australia’s initial plan to open its international borders in October will slip due to delays in the country’s vaccine program.
The issues have been due to a shift in policy to prioritise administering the Pfizer vaccine to under 50s rather than the Oxford vaccine that the country has in far greater supply. It follows worries the British-created jab could lead to blood clots in a very small number of recipients.
Last week, Health Minister Greg Hunt surprisingly claimed Australia won’t necessarily open its international borders as soon as everyone has been vaccinated.
Minister Hunt said the government would also have to consider how long protection from the jabs lasts and how they affect transmission. “Those are factors which the world is learning about,” he said.
The next day, his colleague Dan Tehan, the Minister for Trade, added the next “logical step” would be expanding Australia’s travel bubbles where it was “safe to do so”.
“Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam have all been mentioned as potentials in that area. And I think that is likely to be the systematic approach that we take,” he told the ABC.
The concerns over the rollout stem from Australia having secured 53.8 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab compared with just 20 million of the Pfizer alternative.
Qantas’ chief executive has repeatedly insisted Qantas’ policy is that international travellers must be vaccinated.