Former health chief Jane Halton is optimistic that Australia will have a home quarantine system in place by Christmas when international borders open, which would save returning Australians a significant amount of expenses.
Halton, who is also leading the second review into Australia’s quarantine system, said once the 80 percent COVID-19 vaccination threshold is hit, home quarantine arrangements would be feasible.
“I’m hoping that we can have systems up and running, certainly in test arrangements, well before Christmas,” she told ABC radio.
“I do think it’s important to keep in perspective that [it] won’t be an option for everybody, but for many people, the possibility of quarantining at home will be real, and I think is something that we’ll be looking to make pretty widely available,” she added.
South Australia (SA) is currently conducting a pilot home quarantine program that involves using a new app where participants are contacted at random and required to give proof of location within 15 minutes.
The app collects information on geolocation, facial recognition, and more, raising privacy concerns after both Western Australia and Australian Capital Territory police were found to have accessed COVID-19 tracking app data without permission.
Meanwhile, the SA home quarantine app’s privacy statement states, “we will ensure personal information is stored securely, not kept longer than necessary, and disposed of appropriately.”
Halton also said the double vaccinated might be required to isolate for a shorter period in the future.
“All of those things are on the table, but we need to make sure we’ve got the evidence [that it won’t pressure the health system],” she said.
When asked why any form of quarantine was required for returning Australians when the national plan involved high vaccination rates and living with COVID-19, Halton said it was because even the fully vaccinated could become infected and spread the CCP virus.
“As we know, the reopening plan has a number of stages, which still contemplates public health actions to minimize the number of outbreaks in the spread,” Halton said, adding she would be surprised if these arrangements still existed in three or four years unless there was a development of another “very nasty [COVID-19] variant.”
Currently, New South Wales (NSW) is the state closest to reaching the vaccination threshold, with 78.8 percent of the over-16 population having received one dose and 46.5 percent fully vaccinated, according to the latest figures.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the state would gradually open once 70 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.
He hinted that when the state is likely to hit the 80 percent threshold in November, the population could enjoy more freedoms such as international travel and community sport. However, details are yet to be finalised.