The Australian state of New South Wales will allow some returning international travelers to self-quarantine at home from the end of the month, possibly signaling the beginning of the end of the country’s strict hotel quarantine system.
The pilot program will allow 175 fully vaccinated people to isolate themselves in their homes for seven days instead of spending two weeks in a government-designated facility, Stuart Ayres, a New South Wales government official announced Friday. Police will employ location-based tracking and facial recognition technology to monitor the movements of the newcomers, he added. Similar technology has been used in Western Australia since November.
The program will help the country plan the next steps to end the current system, Ayres told a press conference: “We have to be able to know what happens when we put people in home quarantine. Australia must reopen. We must get rid of the confinements; we must recommit to the world. “
Currently, passengers arriving in Australia are required to spend two weeks in a hotel room. But it is difficult to find points in the country’s quarantine system. The border is closed to almost everyone except returning citizens, many of whom have faced flight cancellations due to the country’s strict limit on the number of arrivals. In July, the cap was cut in half to 3,000 passengers a week, further complicating the efforts of some Australians to return home.
The announcement of the pilot program comes as New South Wales reaches a key vaccination goal: Half of all residents over the age of 16 have received two doses of a Covid vaccine, while more than 80 percent have received at least one. . The state is battling one of the most serious outbreaks in the country, with 1,284 new cases and 12 deaths recorded on Friday.
Greg Hunt, the federal health minister, also announced that Australia has exceeded the goal of providing one dose of the vaccine to 70 percent of people over the age of 16. “It is a significant and important milestone in the protection and safety of Australians,” he said. at a press conference on Friday.
Victoria, who is a resident of New South Wales, has also administered a first dose of Covid vaccine to at least 70 percent of the population over 16, and will ease some restrictions starting Friday night. The vast majority of businesses remain closed and a curfew still applies in Melbourne, the largest city.
Australia will soon begin vaccinating people with the Moderna vaccine, in addition to the vaccines produced by AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech. One million doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive by the end of the weekend, Hunt said.
Still, in response to Australia’s ongoing outbreak, New Zealand will not resume unquarantined travel between the two countries for at least another eight weeks, Grant Robertson, Deputy Prime Minister announced on Friday. The country suspended the so-called trans-Tasman bubble in July when cases began to rise in Australia.
The New Zealand city of Auckland, home to a third of the country’s population, has been under a strict lockdown for a month as the country tries to eliminate the Delta variant. New Zealand has so far recorded more than 1,000 coronavirus cases and one death in the latest outbreak.