New South Wales (NSW) will begin trialling home quarantine for international arrivals at the end of this month as the state gets ready to open up after a prolonged COVID-19 lockdown.
The pilot program will consist of 175 people, including 50 Qantas aircrew, who have received two doses of a TGA-accredited vaccine.
They will be required to isolate for seven days, but positive cases must remain in quarantine for 14 days.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was optimistic that families would soon be able to reunite and would also be happy to see hotels returned back to tourists.
“Hotel quarantine has been an important line of defence throughout this pandemic but as we move towards our vaccination targets, we have to look at new ways of doing things,” Bereijklian said.
NSW Minister for Tourism Stuart Ayres said high vaccination rates had been the key to driving progress in the state’s opening roadmap.
“This is a really critical step to be able to build and operationalise a home-based quarantine system so ultimately, we can phase out the majority of hotel quarantine,” Ayres said. “This is a really big step and a light for every Australian who are still overseas.”
The NSW trial will expand on the evidence being collected in the ongoing South Australian home quarantine trial, which relies on using geolocation and facial recognition technology.
Ayres said utilising such technology on people’s phones would allow the police and health authorities to continue to monitor a person during their home-based quarantine.
“It’s about ensuring we conduct the trial properly, build the base of evidence so we can remove our hotel quarantine system for the majority of people who are coming into Australia,” he said. “What I mean by that is those that are double vaccinated so we can ultimately remove them from having to be in our hotel system.”
The government stated that privacy will be protected through the same mechanisms as current NSW check-in policies. However, it was found that police in other states violated user privacy and accessed location data for check-in apps.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the pilot would secure the nation’s safe reopening plan.
“This is the next step in our plan to safely reopen, and to stay safely open,” Morrison said in a statement. “NSW has carried the lion’s share of quarantining returning Australians and will be leading the way with this trial that could set the standard for the next phases of the way we live with COVID-19.”
“This could mean more families and friends being able to reunite more quickly, more business being able to be done here, and more workers for key industries being able to fill critical jobs.”
Additionally, Tasmania will also begin a home quarantine trial next week for eligible residents returning home from regional NSW.
“It’s been challenging and I know many people have been frustrated, but it’s time to bring Tasmanians home,” Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein said.
Only people from regional NSW who are double vaccinated and able to provide a negative COVID-19 rest will be eligible.