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PM flags no hotel quarantine changes until next year

Australia’s international borders have been closed since March last year and the government says they are unlikely to reopen until the middle of next year, which will be after the federal election.

The new timeframe means the requirement to serve out two weeks’ quarantine in a hotel under police or military guard could extend for up to two years or possibly longer.

Liberal MP Jason Falinski urged the PM to reconsider given more Australians around the world were now fully vaccinated.

“I hope that as the data changes, which I am sure it will, that we can reconsider and allow a more streamlined approach especially for fully vaccinated returning Australians from countries that have the pandemic under control,” the Member for Mackellar said.

Professor Greg Dore, an infectious diseases expert with the Kirby Institute, said delaying changes to the quarantine system lacked “ambition and public health common sense”.

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“Adoption of home quarantine for fully vaccinated returnees from low and moderate caseload countries would be extremely low-risk and provide an initial step towards more flexible and expanded quarantine models,” Mr Dore said.

The federal government has not asked the states to keep records of how many returning Australians who have been fully vaccinated test positive for COVID-19.

According to available data, the number of people testing positive for the virus in quarantine after being vaccinated is low.

Of the 6447 travellers who went through Victoria’s quarantine system between April 8 and June 3, only four tested positive after reporting having at least one dose of vaccine, just two had been given two doses, and none required hospitalisation. In NSW, 11 people (2 per cent) of the 449 COVID cases recorded in hotel quarantine were among people who said they’d been fully vaccinated.

A spokeswoman for Queensland said the state does not keep records as there was “no requirement” set by the federal government to collect and store information on the vaccination status of international travellers. SA, WA, the NT and the ACT did not respond to requests for their data.

Independent WarringahMP Zali Steggall said the Hoxton Park party where a number of people caught COVID-19 was an example of why younger people needed to be vaccinated so borders can open.

“Of the 30 people there, 24 caught the disease, while the six who didn’t were vaccinated,” she said.

“We need to look at a full range of solutions to reopen Australia to international travel, I’m surprised that there isn’t a plan in place already.

“With a federal election looming, it’s hard not to be cynical about the timing of when the federal government says the international borders will open.

“Large parts of our economy rely on international workers and nearly 30 per cent of Australians were born overseas, that means a lot of families who have been forcibly separated from one another for the last 15 months.”

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