Scott Morrison has outlined a four-phase transition towards living with Covid and finally ending the cycle of lockdowns and border closures.
The Prime Minister hailed a ‘new deal for Australians’ as he outlined the stages titled ‘vaccinate, prepare and pilot’, post vaccination phase, consolidation phase and final phase.
During the first stage from July 14, Australia’s weekly arrival cap has been cut in half from 6,370 to 3,185 to decrease the risk of outbreaks of the more contagious Delta strain from hotel quarantine.
Scott Morrison is pictured leaving quarantine after two weeks in his house in Canberra following the G7 summit
What are the four phases of opening up?
1. ‘Vaccinate, prepare and pilot’ (from July 14)
Arrival caps cut in half to 3,185 a week; lockdowns as a last resort; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals
2. Post vaccination phase (when an as-yet unannounced percentage of Aussies are jabbed, expected early next year)
No lockdowns or state borders except for ‘extreme circumstances’; caps for unvaccinated arrivals doubled to 6,370; home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals; capped entry for students and economic visa holders
3. Consolidation phase (Date not announced)
Lifting all restrictions for outbound travel for vaccinated travellers; no caps for vaccinated arrivals; vaccinated people exempted from domestic restrictions; increased caps for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles being set up with countries such as Singapore; booster shots rolled out
4. Final phase (Date not announced)
Uncapped arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and uncapped arrivals for unvaccinated people with testing before departure and on arrival
But the Commonwealth will now trial allowing fully vaccinated travellers to quarantine at home for seven days, instead of 14 days in a hotel, after medical evidence showed they pose far less risk.
Trials will also allow international students and visa holders to enter during this phase.
State premiers agreed that lockdowns would be used as a ‘last resort’ – but no case threshold for lockdowns was agreed.
The post vaccination phase will begin when a certain percentage of Aussies have been vaccinated. The number is yet to be agreed as modelling continues.
This phase will have no lockdowns or state border controls except for in ‘extreme circumstances’ to prevent mass hospitalisations and deaths.
Inbound passenger caps for unvaccinated travellers will increase to 6,370 and there will be a higher cap for vaccinated travellers with ‘new quarantine’ such as home quarantine for seven days in place.
There will also be capped entry for students and economic visa holders, depending on quarantine space.
The consolidation phase will involve lifting all restrictions for outbound travel for vaccinated travellers, increased caps for students and visa holders and more travel bubbles being set up with countries such as Singapore.
Australians will also be offered vaccine booster shots to combat any new strains.
The final phase will allow uncapped arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and uncapped arrivals for unvaccinated people with testing before departure and on arrival.
International arrivals were capped at 6,370 a week but Labor premiers wanted this dramatically reduced.
The Prime Minister is holding a national cabinet meeting today with Premiers including Dan Andrews (pictured) as they look to agree a plan for Australia’s pandemic future
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian – whose state has taken half of all returned travellers – said she didn’t agree but accepted the decision.
‘I am disappointed that every State hasn’t done its fair share but I appreciate and have to respect the decision of National Cabinet,’ she said.
‘I don’t support the view that other Premiers have that this means mistakes aren’t going to happen and we’re not going to have outbreaks. That is still going to occur,’ she warned.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wanted the caps cut in half while Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews wanted the numbers cut by up to 80 per cent.
‘We are at a pressure cooker moment,’ Ms Palaszczuk told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday as the state’s quarantine hotels filled up.
Mr Andrews agreed, saying: ‘We have it within our power to dramatically reduce the number of people who are coming back just for these next three or four months until we get a critical mass of people with a jab.
‘It won’t be easy to lock some people out. But locking some people out is much better than locking everybody down,’ he added.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews on Wednesday said the caps should not be cut because Australians should be allowed to come home.
Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said only six in 1,000 international arrivals had Covid-19.
What were the weekly arrival caps before the cut in half?
NT: Federal repatriation flights to Howard Springs
The National Cabinet also focussed on the troubled national vaccine rollout and mixed messaging around the AstraZeneca jab.
Mr Morrison on Monday said Australians under 40 could consult their GP about getting the abundant AstraZeneca vaccine.
But Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young urged said they should wait for Pfizer because of a very small risk of blood clots.
Australia’s expert immunisation panel reiterated its advice that Pfizer was preferred for all people aged under 60.
Thursday was a record day for vaccinations with more than 160,000 people receiving jabs nationwide.
Almost eight per cent of Australian adults are now fully vaccinated, but the nation lags far behind all other comparable countries.
Mr Morrison late on Thursday completed 14 days of quarantine at The Lodge in Canberra, after returning from the G7 summit in the UK, and headed to Parliament House to lead the meeting.
The virtual meeting of state and territory leaders hosted by the PM will also discuss international passenger caps. Pictured: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian