A pilot program for immunised people to leave and return under relaxed restrictions could begin soon, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt tells colleagues.
Greg Hunt told the Coalition party room the government has set up a task force to examine what the vaccine could mean for Australia’s travel rules, according to The Guardian.
Following a question from Liberal MP Jason Falinski about the vaccine’s capacity to exempt Aussies from both outbound and inbound travel restrictions on Tuesday, Hunt revealed a plan that could lessen travel restrictions for vaccinated people may be piloted within six weeks.
Australia shut its borders in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic imposing two weeks hotel quarantine on those arriving in the country.
Outbound travel is also banned – which was upheld by the full federal court on Tuesday – although more than 140,000 Australian citizens and residents have travelled overseas for critical business, on compassionate grounds or for other exempted reasons.
Australians who have been vaccinated against Covid would be able to leave the country and return with less strict quarantine requirements.
Mr Hunt said modelling had kicked off on Monday and a trial program could begin in six to eight weeks’ time.
The plan could be extended to countries with trusted vaccination verification programs like the UK, the US, Canada, and Singapore.
If it is extended, the plan could be used to help get some of the 40,000 Aussies still stranded overseas home.
According to The Guardian, the federal government is also considering introducing different quarantine rules based on the likelihood of a new arrival bringing COVID-19 back to Australia.
This could see fully vaccinated Australians returning from low-risk countries being allowed to leave quarantine after returning negative results to a rapid antigen test, and then a full COVID-19 test.
Under the trans-Tasman travel bubble, Aussies and Kiwis are allowed to travel between the two countries without quarantining, making New Zealand the only country categorised as a “green zone”.
The government is struggling to vaccinate its population by the end of 2021, there is pressure on the federal government to provide incentives to get the jab and to ease the travel ban that has separated families.
In May, Prime Minister Scott Morrison proposed that Australians who had been vaccinated could be exempted from domestic restrictions, such as border bans and lockdowns imposed by the states in response to outbreaks.
The plan met resistance from states such as Queensland and Victoria that wanted to preserve their ability to set restrictions, and from members of the government such as George Christensen who objected on the basis, it rendered unvaccinated people, second-class citizens.
By Joe Cusmano