Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s newly-released COVID plan has finally revealed some sort of a pathway for Australia to return to its pre-pandemic state, however there’s one thing that’s missing – when.
Mr Morrison revealed that the government is currently modelling a vaccination threshold that would allow Australia to enter the post-vaccination phases of his plan, when international travel can return.
Until this modelling is complete, there will be no accurate way to estimate when the different phases of this plan will actually kick into action.
The few clues that have been given suggest that we may still be waiting a while.
As a guide the Australian government website defines herd immunity as when around 60% to 70% of people have some degree of protection. Currently, only 5.9% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Perhaps Mr Morrison’s most timebound comment of today was: “I hope we’re living in that second phase next year.”
As expanded on below, phase two doesn’t appear to offer much hope for free-ranging international travel, or even many more travel bubbles, meaning those hoping to escape the country later this year or early next year may have had their hopes further dashed.
While a plan that results in normality is of course welcomed, those in the travel industry will be eagerly awaiting results of the “threshold modelling” or more time-specific goals before getting too excited.
Of other interest to travellers will be vaccinated Australians being able to go to selected overseas destinations during phase three, and the use of vaccination passports becoming commonplace in travel.
The aim of the plan is to essentially take Australia from its current pre-vaccination phase to eventually treating the virus “like the flu.”
The first phase will decrease the amount of Australian’s allowed to arrive home by 50% in every state from July 14. This is a measure to protect from the Delta strain of COVID.
However, those are returning to Australia but have been vaccinated will now be able to do a 7-day home quarantine, rather than abiding to the previous rule of 14 days in a hotel.
“Digital vaccination certificate’s,” will be used to indicate a passenger’s vaccination status, appearing set to become standard for future travel.
Mr Morrison commented: “We will recognise and adopt the Commonwealth’s existing digital Medicare vaccination certificate that is automatically generated for every vaccination.”
“That is something that is already there now. By the end of the month, it will be at another level which would see it being able to be incorporated in things like Apple Wallets and the like. We will put in place a digital vaccination authentication at the border.”
Also part of the first phase is only using lockdowns as a last resort, however, this phrasing is obviously not fully clear, Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley commented, “I suspect every state has only ever been using lockdowns as a last resort.”
Phase two will be entered into once a certain threshold of people are vaccinated, although Mr Morrison would not reveal this threshold and said it is still being worked out.
Mr Morrison inferred that after phase two is entered into, fully vaccinated Australian’s will have more freedom in regards to restrictions, lockdowns and border controls.
Also involved in phase two will be unvaccinated travellers once again being able to return to Australia at their current levels, with all inbound passengers being divided into vaccinated and unvaccinated groups.
What will really get the heart of wanderlust-starved travellers thumping is phase three, when COVID-19 is treated like any other infectious disease.
This will mean no more lock downs and no restrictions on domestic or international travel, with travel bubbles hopefully extended to Singapore and the Pacific by this stage.
This is before phase four where life will be expected to be completely back how it was before.
While there’s very little indication as to when this phase will actually be reached, it is at least a temporary relief to know the government has a plan for getting us back to normal life, and more importantly, back to travelling freely.