Australia may review Covid-19 quarantine curbs as more are vaccinated

Australia is on target to inoculate all residents with a first dose by the end of October.
Australia is on target to inoculate all residents with a first dose by the end of October.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Australia may consider reducing its quarantine requirements and allowing returned travellers to isolate at home as more people receive the Covid-19 vaccine, according to Mr Brendan Murphy, Secretary of the Department of Health.

As vaccines are rolled out in Australia and around the world, the government will start to progressively review its border and quarantine measures, Mr Murphy said.

"We might think about, for example, reducing the length of quarantine, a lot more home quarantine, particularly for vaccinated people," Mr Murphy said on Sky News' Sunday Agenda programme. "Our risk tolerance will change over the second half of this year."

The first step is to reduce domestic restrictions and that officials are more confident responding to small outbreaks, he said.

Mr Murphy said he is hopeful that "pretty good international travel will happen next year" but it is difficult to predict what will happen with international borders because of unknowns surrounding the vaccines.

There are still questions on how long protection will last with inoculations, and how effective they are at preventing asymptomatic transmission and against various strains of the virus, he said.

Mr Murphy said he was confident the vaccines were safe despite some European countries halting use of the AstraZeneca vaccine because of concerns about some side effects.

Australia is on target to inoculate all residents with a first dose by the end of October and the government is trying to bring that forward as much as possible, Mr Murphy said.

The Australian government has come under criticism for being slow in acting to help control the outbreak in Papua New Guinea that has overwhelmed its closest northern neighbour's health system.

Australia's response was "insufficient and too late", said Médecins Sans Frontières Australia (Doctors Without Borders).

Mr Murphy said the outbreak in Papua New Guinea was a real concern with challenges such as low testing rates and problems accessing data.

Australia was sending vaccine doses, protective equipment, a medical support team and ventilators, and will continue to review the support it provides, Mr Murphy said.