Australian travellers who want to fly overseas before all Australians have received their Covid vaccinations could be made to wear ankle bracelets to ensure they are remaining in home quarantine when they return.
With Australians banned from travelling overseas since March 2020, officials have been brainstorming ways to get at least some essential travel back on the agenda by the end of 2021.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Aussies who have had the jabs will be the first to go abroad when the borders open, with the option of quarantining at home for two weeks upon return instead of spending $3,000 staying at an approved hotel.
When responding to questions about how officials would ensure returned travellers were isolating at home, Employment Minister Stuart Robert revealed the government hadn’t ruled out introducing ankle bracelets – like those worn by criminals on parole.
Pictured: Travellers in Sydney in December 2020. International borders could open for vaccinated travellers by the end of 2021
Pictured: Employment Minister Stuart Robert at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on March 23
‘What sort of ideas would there be for this? Regular visits, inspections to make sure they’re home, ankle bracelets, some sort of monitoring, how do you do it?’ ABC Insiders host David Speers asked on Sunday morning.
Mr Robert said he wouldn’t rule anything out, but added that allowing fully-vaccinated people to travel overseas would be a ‘logical first step’ in reopening borders.
‘All of that will need to be worked through before a policy prescription goes live,’ he told the program.
Mr Robert also pointed to a series of measures that were in place when he quarantined for ‘three or four months’ in 2020.
‘The police would turn up at random times to our house, they would call,’ he said.
‘The Department of Health from various jurisdictions would call. They were some of the things put in place to deal with that exact issue.’
On Monday, health minister Greg Hunt said home quarantine systems developed to deal with Victoria’s second wave last year was the ‘perfect’ model.
He said the system included random police checks, phone calls and a daily messaging service asking about resident’s physical and mental health.
Mr Robert was asked whether returned travellers would have to wear ankle bracelets (stock image pictured) to ensure they were quarantining at home
Scott Morrison said vaccinated Australians could be able to travel overseas and skip hotel quarantine by the end of the year. Pictured: Travellers at Sydney domestic airport in December
The comments came after Mr Morrison on Sunday said vaccinated Australians could be able to travel overseas and skip hotel quarantine by the end of the year in certain circumstances.
Mr Morrison said he hoped the greater freedoms would be available to residents who needed to travel for ‘important purposes’ like work or medical reasons.
‘If we can get in a position in the second half of the year to have Australians for essential purpose travel and return to the country without going into hotel quarantine, if they have been vaccinated, it is a good incentive to get vaccinated,’ he said.
Scott Morrison says vaccinated Australians could be able to travel overseas and skip hotel quarantine by the end of the year
The prime minister said on Sunday he hoped the greater freedoms would be available to residents who needed to travel for ‘important purposes’ like work or medical reasons
But Mr Morrison admitted he would not reopen the international border without heavy consideration.
‘I assure Australians that I will not be putting at risk the way we are living in this country which is so different to the rest of the world,’ he said.
He said the plan was still ‘some time away’ from becoming reality but was the next step in relaxing the country’s strict border closures during the pandemic.
‘What I’d like to see happen next, and this is what I’ve tasked the medical experts with, is ensuring we can know when an Australian is vaccinated here with their two doses, is able to travel overseas and return without having to go through hotel quarantine,’ he told 6PR Perth.
‘Now, I think we’re still some time away from that.
‘The states, at this stage, I’m sure wouldn’t be agreeing to relaxing those hotel quarantine arrangements for those circumstances at this point in time.’
He had earlier told a community forum in Perth home quarantine could be used if it did not lead to a significantly higher number of cases than isolating in a hotel.
Mr Morrison admitted he would not reopen the international border without heavy consideration
Mr Morrison told media on Thursday he had tasked medical experts with coming up with a framework to give travel freedom to Australians who have received both doses of the jab
‘[If] the data was showing that home-based quarantine was not creating any additional, scaled risks, that could lead to something more significant,’ he said.
‘That is how we move to the next step.’
He said the plan would have to receive the support of the state premiers to become a reality.
Mr Morrison said the total re-opening of Australia’s borders was still some way off.
He said Australians had become used to recording days of zero community transmission but that would need to change if restrictions were lifted too quickly.
‘If we were to lift the borders and people were to come, then you would see those cases increase,’ he said.
‘Australians would have to become used to dealing with a thousand cases a week or more.’