Australia should allow vaccinated people to home quarantine, expert says

An infectious diseases expert has called for Australia to allow vaccinated people returning from overseas to quarantine at home – after the nation's top doctor maintained no changes to hotel quarantine are currently planned.

Even if Aussies coming back from overseas have been vaccinated, they must still go into 14-day hotel quarantine, which costs about $3000, or $5000 for a family.

Some 34,000 Australians overseas are registered with DFAT as wanting to return, but there are strict flight caps which limit numbers.

They all must complete the hotel quarantine when they eventually arrive.

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Things are starting to change in other nations, with Canada this week set to allow fully vaccinated citizens who test negative for COVID-19 to be exempt from two weeks quarantine – only three days of which needs to be at a hotel.

However, when asked about it this week, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said no changes are currently planned here.

Professor Kelly said while "possibilities" could be looked at, the health emergency body AHPPC has "not recommended" any change.

"Recognising vaccination for example, testing prior to arrival for example, different countries that people might come from where the risk might be less than other countries, this is work we have embarked on for some time," he said.

"But at this stage very clearly, we have our suppression strategy and no community transmission here in Australia.

"That's very different to Canada and most other countries in the world."

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Deakin University Epidemiology chair, Professor Catherine Bennett said monitored home quarantine, rather than no quarantine, should be an option for vaccinated people.

"We're not talking about having no quarantine," she told 9News.

"You could potentially have very low risk people home quarantining – your vaccinated people.

"The next level would be hotel quarantine for those not vaccinated, or where you're not sure about their vaccination status, if they've had one of your less effective vaccines.

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"And then your high risk would be people who've already tested positive with a variant of concern or they're people who've come from a country that's very high risk."

She said both the numbers of people coming in with COVID – only passengers with a negative test can travel – coupled with the proved success of vaccines, means the risk of people having the virus are already now low in vaccinated people.

Melbourne vaccination

"With Pfizer you're talking about a 90 per cent in any risk of infection- symptomatic or not, and its not far off for AstraZeneca, either They're both looking vey good, in the 80 per cents," she said.

"And only half a per cent of people returning from overseas are positive anyway, because we screen offshore.

"So if you've only got a half a percent chance of being positive, and only a 20 percent chance of being infected, it's starting to become incredibly low that you would be positive.

"But you're still going into home quarantine. And you're still tested."

She said, like other experts including former Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth, that Australia needs to learn to live with the virus, and thinks the rules which were originally put in place to protect hospitals from being overstretched, have "gone awry".

That includes a couple being banned from leaving hotel quarantine to see their newborn baby.

"People will continue to die from infectious diseases, flu, other pneumonia, a range of things, and COVID will be one of them," she said.


"We should monitor these diseases but we shouldn't be counting and reporting them every day, if it's not something that's signalling that the virus is changing."

"We're now locked into these very extreme, zero tolerance thinking, which takes all our effort, rather than what we need to do to prepare for tomorrow."

Last month the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry called for vaccinated people to be exempt from quarantine once more people have the jab, as part of a suggested opening up plan.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also mentioned possible "vaccine passports", but no plans have been revealed.