Why hotel quarantine could last ‘three or four years’ while Australia slowly moves towards Covid-19 herd immunity – but there will be some major changes before Christmas
- Hotel quarantine in Australia is set to last three or four years to keep out Covid
- Australians returning from overseas will be allowed to quarantine at home
- A trail of home quarantine is underway with arrivals in South Australia right now
A quarantine worker at a hotel in Brisbane
Covid-19 hotel quarantine could be in place for three or four years but Australians returning from overseas may be allowed to isolate at home by Christmas.
Jane Halton, a former public servant who conducted a review of the quarantine system last year, said hotel quarantine could last even longer if a new Covid-19 variant evades vaccines.
‘In three or four years’ time I’ll be quite surprised if we’re using these kinds of arrangements unless for example there’s a very nasty new variant,’ she told ABC radio on Tuesday morning.
Ms Halton revealed that quarantine will be required until Australia reaches herd immunity to Covid-19.
‘We don’t know how long it will take us to have the level of coverage of vaccines but also the protection right across the community,’ she said.
For measles herd immunity is achieved when 95 per cent are protected by vaccines or natural immunity while polio requires 80 per cent coverage.
Most experts say herd immunity from Covid will require between 80 and 90 per cent of the population to be protected but some doubt whether it’s possible at all due to new variants, waning vaccine protection and cases of re-infection.
Ms Halton said while foreigners may still require hotel quarantine, Australians returning from overseas could isolate at home by the end of this year.
‘We know the short term will see a significant re-opening.
‘I’m hopeful that we can have [home quarantine] systems up and running certainly in test arrangements well before Christmas,’ she said.
‘For many people the possibility of quarantining at home will be real and I think is something that we’ll be looking to make pretty widely available.
‘You may have to be isolated for a period waiting for a negative test but it depends on your risk and we also know that if you’re double vaccinated you may have a shorter period that you might have to isolate, not necessarily 14 days.
Australians will be allowed overseas when 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated. Pictured: Sydney’s Bondi Beach
‘All those things are on the table,’ she said.
A trial of home quarantine is under way in South Australia with double-vaccinated international arrivals staying at home for two weeks.
Ms Halton, who is chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, also pointed out that thousands of domestic travellers are in home quarantine around the country after travelling to Covid-zero states from Melbourne and Sydney.
Australia’s national re-opening plan allows to ‘new reduced quarantine requirements’ when 70 per cent of over 16s are fully vaccinated.
Currently 42.55 per cent are double jabbed.
Visa holders will be allowed to enter at the 70 per cent mark with a cap on quarantine places.
The plan allows Australians, who have been banned from going on holiday since March 2020, to leave the country once 80 per cent have had both doses.
Travel bubbles will be set up with Covid-safe countries to allow movement without any quarantine at all.
What are the four phases of opening up?
A. Vaccinate, prepare and pilot (from July 14)
Arrival caps cut in half to 3,035 a week; early, stringent and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available on apps like apple wallet
B. Post vaccination phase (when 70 per cent are jabbed, expected late this year)
Lockdowns less likely but possible; vaccinated people face reduced restrictions; caps for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger cap for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; capped entry for students and economic visa holders
C. Consolidation phase (when 80 per cent are jabbed, time not announced)
Only ‘highly targeted’ lockdowns; lifting all restrictions for outbound travel for vaccinated travellers; no caps for vaccinated arrivals; increased caps for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles being set up with countries such as Singapore; booster shots rolled out
D. Final phase (percentage or time not announced)
Uncapped arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and uncapped arrivals for unvaccinated people with testing before departure and on arrival