Dominic Perrottet, Premier of New South Wales Home, has announced that international arrivals fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will no longer need quarantine starting November 1.
To a certain extent, the federal government supports the plan. It is responsible for international border decisions. The plan does not allow tourism to reopen. Only Australian residents, citizens and their families will be able to return during the initial stages. Victoria announced that it would open borders to fully vaccinated persons coming from NSW, without the need for quarantine. Then it announced that it was lifting restrictions on lockdown.
The federal government had announced that it would reopen international borders in the coming months to vaccinated returning citizens. They could then quarantine at home for seven consecutive days. The NSW decision eliminates quarantine for vaccinated travelers. What are the risks and the benefits? And what will Australia look like in the next few months?
Is It As Frightening As It Sounds?
There are many reasons to be concerned, but there are also protections. This rule applies only to people who have been fully vaccinate with a vaccine that has approve by Australia’s drug regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Recent research has shown that full vaccination can protect against symptoms of infection between 65% and 90%. Those who have received both doses of the vaccine are less likely to transmit the virus.
Caps will be in effect for those who have not been vaccinate. Each week, only 210 people who are not vaccinate will be permit to enter NSW from abroad. Unvaccinated persons will still need to be screen.
Returning travellers will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 testing within 72 hours of departure. While this significantly reduces the risk for people traveling to Australia with COVID-19 it does not eliminate the risk.
This year, data from NSW’s hotel quarantine has shown that between 0.2% to 1.4% of those in quarantine have tested positive. The risk of infection will vary depending on the destination.
Besorgnizing Factors Home
Although more than 80% fully vaccinate in NSW, it isn’t evenly distribute. Certain areas in the region have a vaccination coverage rate of less than 60% for those over 16 years old. As international travel resumes, this creates greater risk for those who live in these areas.
Importantly, Australians under 12 years old are not eligible for vaccination. This means that no one currently vaccinate.
Furthermore, increasing case numbers may be a result of the relaxation in international travel rules. This could increase pressure on the NSW healthcare system. Media reports suggest that the system is already under pressure.
The risk of new COVID-19 variants being introduce into the population by relaxation of international quarantine could also increase, increasing the likelihood of large outbreaks.
There Are Also Some Positive News Home
Many Australians currently stranded abroad will be able now to return home with the announcement. This is important because the current situation has serious economic and mental impacts on those who are strand.
What are we still missing? The premier’s announcement on Friday left out a few key details. The most important is how will people be monitored upon their return to Australia, and what testing will be necessary.
Uncertain how this will impact families traveling with children younger than 12 years old, who aren’t eligible for vaccination, is also unclear.
While it will not change the outcome of the decision, more information about any health advice that influenced this decision may be helpful to increase public confidence.
What Does This All Mean For Other States Or Territories?
This will likely to further divide the COVID-19 responses from Australia’s individual states and territories. The high vaccination rate in NSW provides protection to the population during reopening. This is not true for all states and territories. Queensland and the Northern Territory report less than 60% coverage for two-dose vaccinations in 16-year-olds and older.
The NSW announcement will have short-term impacts on states and territories that have lower vaccination rates, or who take a more cautious approach. Although the details are not yet clear, it is unlikely that anyone traveling from overseas to NSW will be allowed to travel anywhere in Australia. This could also have an impact on states that open up to residents from other states, such as NSW and Victoria. The country will be more equal as the vaccination rates rise and the rest announce their plans to open up.