Vaccinated travellers to home quarantine as Prime Minister Scott Morrison cuts international flights in half

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Restrictions on vaccinated Australians travelling to states or subject to lockdowns could be eased next year if plans fall into place, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.

States and territories have also agreed to trial home quarantining for vaccinated travellers while reducing incoming passengers by 50 per cent to deal with the COVID-19 Delta strain, as authorities race to speed up vaccination rates across the population.

Freshly surfacing from a two-week quarantine at the Lodge, the Prime Minister met with state and territory leaders on Friday morning to discuss the national situation amid new outbreaks across capital cities and conflicting vaccine advice.

Mr Morrison said leaders had agreed to a new four-stage plan, which would allow the country to treat COVID-19 as an infectious disease like any other in our community.

He signalled plans to allow those vaccinated to move more freely across cities and interstate while those who hadn't yet received the jab would remain subject to strict public health orders.

Progressing to the next phase of the roadmap would be tied to achieving a particular vaccination target for the population, which will be finalized in the coming weeks.

In a rallying cry to Australians, Mr Morrison held up the vaccine as the ticket to a future free of lockdowns, border closures and international travel bans.

"A lot of people say - why should I get vaccinated? There's not much COVID around in Australia. I've got more chance of getting run over by a car than I have of catching COVID in this country," Mr Morrison said.

"We're prisoners of our own success in this.

"If you get vaccinated you get to change how we get to live as a country. You get to change how you live in Australia."

The first - and current - phase is focused on suppressing the virus' spread in the community and vaccinating the population. Lockdowns should be used as a last resort.

In the second phase, which the Prime Minister hoped Australia would enter next year, leaders agreed vaccinated Australians would face eased restrictions in the event of future outbreaks and lockdowns and a limited number of international students would be allowed into the country.

The third phase would result in lifting restrictions for vaccinated persons on travelling internationally and extending the travel bubble to include countries such as Singapore, the Pacific and others that are deemed suitable. There would be no lockdowns.

It's expected caps on international students and humanitarian visa holders would also be increased.

The fourth and final phase, which Mr Morrison could not provide a planned date it would be reached by, would be a near return to normal.

Some additional measures, such pre-and post-flight testing for the virus, would be undertaken while parts of the population remained unvaccinated.

The vaccination targets would be based on modelling from the Doherty Institute, Mr Morrison said.

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Mr Morrison said that in the meantime Australia would reduce incoming passengers into the country by 50 per cent and trial home quarantine for returning travellers who have been vaccinated.

"To temporarily reduce commercial inbound passenger arrivals to all major ports by 50 per cent from current caps to reduce the pressure on quarantine facilities, due to the increased risks of the Delta strain of the virus," he said.

"We'll have fewer commercial flights coming but we'll have increased facilitated flights from the Commonwealth to get Australians home.

"We will trial and pilot with individual jurisdictions the introduction of alternative quarantine options, including home quarantine for returning vaccinated travellers."

Mr Morrison later said it was likely the reduced international flights cap would last for the remainder of the year subject to health advice.

The announcement on Friday was Mr Morrison's first public appearance since he sparked fresh confusion and political sniping by encouraging under-40s to consult their GPs about taking the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Mr Morrison strongly rejected any assertion that he misspoke when issuing the advice, saying his statements were consistent with the position of the government's expert immunization panel.

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This story 'You get to change how you live': Morrison charts road out of pandemic first appeared on The Canberra Times.