A senior minister has left open the possibility of returning travellers wearing ankle bracelets to ensure they do not violate a home quarantine system touted by the federal government.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday raised the prospect of fully-vaccinated Australians going into home isolation when returning from abroad in a bid to free up hotel quarantine space.
Employment Minister Stuart Robert was pressed on how the government would ensure returning travellers adhered to the rules when isolating at home.
“What sort of ideas would there be for this? Regular visits, inspections to make sure they’re home, ankle bracelets, some sort of monitoring, how do you do it?” ABC Insiders host David Speers asked.
Mr Robert did not rule out those prospects. He said fully-vaccinated Australians travelling abroad would be a “logical first step” as the country reopened, but conceded challenges in home quarantine would need to be ironed out.
“All of that will need to be worked through before a policy prescription goes live,” he said.
But he pointed to a number of measures implemented as he spent “three or four months” in home quarantine last year.
“The police would turn up at random times to our house, they would call. The Department of Health from various jurisdictions would call. They were some of the things put in place to deal with that exact issue,” he said.
Mr Morrison on Sunday confirmed the federal government was open to the prospect of home isolations in the second half of the year, beginning with fully-vaccinated Australians returning from essential travel.
“That would potentially open the door later for returning Australian residents to have a successful home isolation quarantine … If that works, you’ve freed up your hotel quarantine system, and that means essential workers can begin to come in,” he said.
But Mr Morrison warned a “lot of work” was required to ensure the system was as effective as hotel quarantine, saying the Commonwealth would work “one step at a time” with the states and territories in a “very controlled and very safe way”.
“With COVID, you’ve got to expect the unexpected. That makes those sorts of issues very hard to forecast,” he told reporters.
“I assure Australians that I will not be putting at risk the way we are living in this country which is so different to the rest of the world today.
“The issues of borders and how they are managed will be done very, very carefully.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt on Tuesday said there was no guarantee Australia’s borders would open even if the whole population was vaccinated, saying more needed to be known on the jab’s longevity and effectiveness against transmission.
Mr Morrison also claimed Australia was in “no hurry” to open its international borders and warned the process would be staggered.
“The idea that on one day that everything just opens, that’s not how this is going to happen,” he said.
The government’s already sluggish vaccine rollout was dented by advice the AstraZeneca vaccine, central to its strategy, should not be taken by people aged under 50 whenever possible.
The development forced the Coalition to abandon all vaccination timetables, but the prime minister insisted there was “no change” to its focus on immunising frontline workers and the elderly.
Mr Morrison last week questioned whether Australia’s vaccine supply could support a mass vaccination site proposed by the NSW government, which it claimed could vaccinate 30,000 people per week from mid-May.
He said he would welcome a discussion on the proposal at a meeting of national cabinet on Monday, but insisted it would not come at the cost of the rollout already underway.
“What I stress as that process would be to supplement, be in addition to, what the GPs are doing,” he said.
“It is not a matter of moving doses from GPs to state and territory distributions. It is a matter of using those additional state and territory opportunities there are to add to the capacity for those populations.”