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Expert backs shorter-period home quarantine to start "well before" Christmas

The expert in charge of reviewing Australia's quarantine system is keen to see shorter-period home isolation for overseas arrivals in place before the end of the year, once the nation hits 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage.

The expert in charge of reviewing Australia’s quarantine system is keen to see shorter-period home isolation for overseas arrivals in place before the end of the year, once the nation hits 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage.

Jane Halton, who is also the chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, believes home quarantine will be viable once the nation hits 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage.

“I’m hoping that we can have systems up and running certainly in test arrangements well before Christmas,” she told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“That’s the carrot. If we hit that 80 per cent double-vaccinated point then we should be able to have these arrangements up and running.”

Not all people arriving in the country will be able to access home quarantine, which will save travellers thousands on hotel bills and costs from other facilities.

Regardless, it is still welcome news for Australian ex-pats hoping to finally be able to return by Christmas, as promised by PM Scott Morrison.

“We are looking forward to welcoming many people back home soon. We can get there this year,” Mr Morrison told an awards ceremony for high-achieving Australians working overseas last week.

“I thank you once again for your patience and enduring what has been a very frustrating and very difficult time for you,” he said.

South Australia is trialling a home system using facial recognition and location technology allowing people to respond to three random checks a day.

However, some have questioned the use of home-quarantine apps, suggesting ankle tags be used instead as a simpler, safer and more robust solution.

Ms Halton said fully vaccinated people may have shorter quarantine periods than the two weeks Australia now mandates.

“All of those things are on the table but we need to make sure we’ve got the evidence,” she said.

The former health department boss doesn’t expect quarantine will become permanent as vaccination coverage continues to rise.

“In three or four years’ time, I’ll be surprised if we’re using these kinds of arrangements unless for example there’s a very nasty new variant.”

Jane Halton, chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations

Ms Halton has also advised a private company looking to build quarantine sites around Australia.

She said state-run centres the federal government has agreed to build in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth would not have enough capacity for overseas labour needs.

“We know there are tens of thousands of, for example, agricultural workers that are needed in the country and they’re needed very soon,” she said.

As for the restart of international tourism? The hope is that green lane arrangements with countries including Singapore, Fiji, New Zealand, the US, UK and Japan would mean no quarantine for returning arrivals.

Because who would want, or is able to home quarantine for 5-10 days, let alone 14 days after returning from a holiday overseas? This kind of incentive to travel again would just not work.

To date, Australia has vaccinated 42.55 per cent of people aged 16 and over and 67.83 have received a single dose.