South Australia has confirmed it will host the two-week trial of home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals into the country.
The news emerged from Friday’s national cabinet meeting, which also revealed 29 government-supplemented Qantas 737 repatriations are scheduled to fly into Darwin.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said SA will now set up a plan and timeframe of when the trial of home quarantine will come together.
“I think this is an important development,” said PM Morrison. “That will be a transparent project with all the other states and territories.
“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.”
The new plans will see all arrivals declare their vaccination status when they land through COVID declaration cards.
“Obviously, those who are vaccinated have a much lower risk of infection than those who are not vaccinated,” the PM added.
There will also be a “strong preference” to only allow people to leave Australia if they have been vaccinated themselves.
“That reduces the risk both to them personally, because as we know COVID is through many countries around the world and many other places Australians will travel to, and that, of course, reduces the risk when they return to Australia,” PM Morrison said.
“For those who are unable for medical reasons to receive a vaccination or at this point in the cycle they may not have access to a vaccination, these are issues that will be taken into account by the border force commissioner in considering those arrangements.”
In addition, the national cabinet revealed 29 repatriation flights are currently scheduled to fly into Darwin. This increase is intended to offset the recent announcement that arrival caps will reduce from 6,000 to 3,000 nationwide.
“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.
The developments come a week after the national cabinet agreed on a pathway out of the COVID pandemic, which will see four “phases” of response until life returns to normal.
During the current phase one focused on vaccinating, preparing and planning, arrival caps will reduce by 50 per cent from 6,070 passengers a week to just 3,035.
The arrival caps will then return to their current levels in phase two, with larger caps for vaccinated travellers.
Phase two will begin when a specific target of vaccinations has been reached, which will be decided by “scientific evidence”.
In this phase, lockdowns will only be used in extreme circumstances and vaccinated citizens will face eased restrictions. More students and skilled migrants will likely be welcomed, too.
In the third phase, the virus will be managed like any other infectious disease and phase four would see the country return to normality.
Arrival caps were introduced in July 2020 and initially sat at 4,000, before increasing to 6,500 at the end of 2020 and then decreasing to just over 4,000 in January 2021, before finally returning to more than 6,000 early this year.
Australian Aviation reported this week that the reduction to arrival caps meant one-way flights between London and Sydney are now selling for more than $43,000.
The new caps are likely to be:
Sydney to reduce from 3,010 passengers per week to 1,505;
Perth 530 to 265;
Adelaide 530 to 265;
Melbourne 1,000 to 500;
Brisbane 1,000 (plus 300 surge capacity) to 500 (plus 150 surge capacity);
The current total of 6,070 will reduce to 3,035.