Morrison asks health experts to come up with framework to restart overseas travel

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is leaning on his team of health experts to formulate some sort of framework for the reopening of international borders.

“This is what I’ve tasked the medical experts with, is ensuring that we can know when an Australian is vaccinated here with their two doses, is able to travel overseas and return without having to go through hotel quarantine,” he told 6PR Perth Radio.

“I think we’re still some time away from that. The states, at this stage, I’m sure wouldn’t be agreeing to relaxing those hotel quarantine arrangements for those circumstances at this point in time.

“But what we need to know from the health advisers is what does make that safe and what does make that possible.”

Morrison said the first step is to allow Australians who are vaccinated to be able to move and travel “particularly for important purposes”.

“And secondly, for Australian residents and citizens from overseas who have been properly vaccinated, they will be able to come back in that way,” he said.

“If this works without major outbreaks, Australia could slowly consider a return to international travel.

“That would enable Australians to travel first for business and those sorts of things but ultimately if that worked well over a period of time and the data was showing that home-based quarantine was not creating any additional, scaled risks, that could lead to something more significant. That is how we move to the next step.”

The dilemma for Morrison is that Australians are now very comfortable with the having no community transmission. Any case numbers are now linked directly to those people returning home from overseas.

“If we were to lift the borders and people come, then you would see those cases increase and Australians would have to become used to dealing with 1000 cases a week or more,” he said.

“Now, it is true that our most vulnerable populations would be vaccinated, but I don’t think Australians, particularly Western Australians, would welcome restrictions and closures and border shutting and all of those things, again, out of states concerned about the rising numbers of case numbers.

“So there needs to be, everyone needs to get on the same page with that. And so they’re the important threshold issues we’ve got to work together through as a National Cabinet.”

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton flagged a staggered framework for allowing some overseas travel based on home quarantine for returning travellers who have been vaccinated rather than hotel quarantine.

“But if we can get people away from hotel quarantine into home quarantine and people do the right thing, then you can scale up the numbers obviously much more significantly than if we are just relying on hotels,” he said.