Top doctors have issued their six-point plan detailing exactly what Australia needs to do to open borders and allow international travel.
The Australian Medical Association’s federal council has this week asked national cabinet to improve the hotel quarantine system by establishing long-term facilities specifically designed for the purpose.
The experts at the AMA said even though Covid-19 continues to spread overseas, once a significant portion of the Australian population is vaccinated, borders should be progressively opened.
The Australian Medical Association has outline their plan for Australia to open borders which includes increasing vaccinations (pictured: Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell receives the Pfizer vaccine on May 10)
The plan also involved improving the hotel quarantine system (pictured is Howard Springs in the NT)
The release of the AMA’s plan follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday rejecting comments about the international border re-opening issued by Virgin Australia’s boss.
The airline’s CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said borders should open once a large chunk of Australians are vaccinated and that: ‘Some people may die, but it will be way smaller than with the flu’.
Mr Morrison denounced the comments as ‘insensitive’ saying every life lost because of Covid was a ‘terrible tragedy’.
The AMA’s panel of experts have outlined what they believe needs to happen in order for travel to resume safely.
In addition to widespread vaccination, the group’s plan involves strengthening existing hotel quarantine with improved ventilation systems and better personal protective equipment as standard.
AMA’S SIX POINT PLAN TO OPEN BORDERS
1. Increase vaccinations across the country especially staff in hotel quarantine.
2. Strengthen hotel quarantine by upgrading ventilation systems and issuing better PPE gear.
3. Stocktake of non-hotel facilities which could be repurposed as quarantine accommodation.
4. Fast track the development of these facilities.
5. A partnership between the federal and state governments to establish and fund long term quarantine accommodation.
6. A boost to funding for public hospitals to increase surge capacity to deal with potential outbreaks.
A stocktake of facilities outside of hotel quarantine should be carried out to gauge what can be repurposed into specifically designed quarantine accommodation – and existing proposals should be fast-tracked.
The group has also said the federal and state government must establish a partnership and funding scheme to develop these longer term facilities.
Lastly, the experts recommend public hospitals receive a boost in funding to upgrade their surge capacity to deal with any potential outbreaks.
Australians have been told they will be eligible for overseas travel exemptions once they have received both doses of the Covid vaccine under a government plan to encourage more people to get the jab.
National Cabinet is reportedly weighing up the incentive – which would fast track the already lagging rollout.
‘Where there are outbreaks or issues regarding state borders, there is the potential for those who have been fully vaccinated to be exempt from some of those restrictions,’ Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday.
Last month Scott Morrison said plans for vaccinated Australians to be able to go overseas and isolate at home upon return was only intended for ‘essential travel’ at first.
‘What I’m working on right now, is that where an Australian is vaccinated under our program, when they will be able to travel overseas,’ he said.
Australians could be eligible for overseas travel exemptions if they have received both doses of the Covid vaccine
Travelers at Sydney airport on April 19 as they wait to board a flight to NZ after the travel bubble was opened
To encourage Aussies to get the jab, National Cabinet is reportedly weighing up the move – which would also fast track the already lagging rollout
‘I would think in the initial stages, particularly for essential purposes, business, things like that, medical reasons, friends and family, important events, funerals, so on.
‘That could be done and return to Australia without the need for a hotel quarantine of 14-days and to be able to do that either at home or under some other less stringent environment than you have with hotel quarantine.
‘Now that would require being vaccinated and that would be an important incentive for people to do that.’
However since then the government has announced in the Budget that it did not anticipate international travel being anything like back to normal until the latter part of 2022.
The Prime Minister on Monday refused to reveal the benchmark for reopening the international border, saying only that restrictions will remain in place until it is safe to lift them, with no objective standard of what constituted safe.
‘It’s not safe to take those next steps right now, it’s not. But we’ll keep working on what the next steps are,’ he told reporters in Queensland on Monday.
Mr Morrison is taking comfort in broad public support for the closed border.
Three in four people believe Australia’s international border should remain closed until at least the middle of next year.
However, there is a growing push from the business community and within government ranks to open the border sooner than that.
Last month Scott Morrison said despite working on a plan for vaccinated Australians to be able to go overseas and isolate at home, he admitted it would only be for ‘essential travel’ at first
Three in four people believe Australia’s international border should remain closed until at least the middle of next year
A group of Liberal MPs including Jason Falinski want the country to reopen as soon as possible.
They also want vaccinated Australians to be given a greater opportunity to travel overseas.
Mr Falinski said he understood the ‘fortress mentality’ that had developed during the coronavirus pandemic.
‘But it doesn’t need to be that way,’ he told Seven.
‘We spent a lot of money keeping families safe, we don’t want to keep them apart.’
Mr Falinski wants people who are vaccinated to be able to reunite with friends and family overseas.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet agrees, and has warned against letting populism determine public policy.
‘It’s the role of political leaders not to be following the polling or looking at what focus groups are saying,’ Mr Perrottet told Sky News.
‘The job is to lead and communicate and bring Australian people with us.’
The AMA said once a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated, borders should gradually be opened (pictured: passengers flying to Auckland from Australia on May 6 check-in)