Australia’s international border could open in a matter of weeks if New South Wales deems its home quarantine trial a success, Premier Dominic Perrottet has announced, signaling the end of mandatory isolation in hotels for returning travelers.
Under a plan announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the international border will reopen for states which surpass an 80% full vaccination rate for residents aged 16 and over.
Canberra has reportedly circled 1 November as a likely date for NSW’s international border to reopen. However, some projections see NSW passing the 80% vaccination threshold as early as 20 October.
Fronting the media in Sydney hours after an easing of the city’s COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, Perrottet said his government is keen to fast-track the return of fully vaccinated Australians through home quarantine.
“The reality is, there is really no point into the future of having people who are double vaccinated coming back into Australia and sitting in a hotel for two weeks when they could sit at home for a shorter period of time,” Perrottet said.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
NSW is currently trialing the system with roughly 30 participants, with the government determining how it will ensure returned travelers spend seven days of quarantine time at home instead of roaming through the community.
NSW Liberal Party Deputy Leader Stuart Ayres is preparing a report on the trial to be delivered to key state MPs this week, Perrottet said.
“I will review it and if we can bring the date forward, we will,” he added.
It is hoped that home quarantine will ease the burden on Australia’s state-run hotel quarantine systems, allowing international travel at a scale not seen since early 2020.
“We can’t live here like a hermit kingdom on the other side of the world, we want returning Australians to come back,” Perrottet said.
South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland have also kicked off home quarantine trials. NSW is prepared to “work with the other states and territories” on their home quarantine systems, Perrottet added.
Boosting the intake of international arrivals is also a major goal for the education sector, which lost out on millions in revenue when foreign students were locked out of the country, and for industries suffering significant skills shortages.
Appearing alongside Perrottet, Business NSW CEO Dan Hunter said, “if we lose this opportunity, those skilled migrants will go to other countries.
“We won’t get those engineers, those accountants, they’ll commit to other projects and we need the skilled migrants to deliver on some of the infrastructure projects.”
Optimism in the nation’s home quarantine systems and the pending arrival of vaccine passports has spread to the airline industry, with Qantas accelerating the return of international flights from mid-December to November.