Australian Government considers home isolation for overseas arrivals

Lower-risk travellers could return to home isolation, rather than hotel quarantine, under a new 'traffic light' system.

By Chris Chamberlin, October 16 2020
Australian Government considers home isolation for overseas arrivals

Travellers arriving in Australia from low-risk countries could be allowed to spend their 14-day quarantine period in the comfort of their home rather than paying for a hotel, under plans being considered by the federal government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today that a ‘traffic light’ system would rank nations according to how they were tracking with COVID-19 infections.

Passengers coming from ‘red’ countries and regions would continue to spend a fortnight in hotel isolation, while arrivals from ‘amber’ destinations may be allowed to quarantine at home.

Entry from a country or territory zoned ‘green’ would not require any quarantine period – as is now the case for travellers arriving from New Zealand into selected Australian airports, and would apply to future two-way 'travel bubbles' – provided they haven’t visited any ‘amber’ or ‘red’ destinations in the previous 14 days.

Speaking with media in Sydney, Morrison confirmed that the National Security Committee was "considering options for home isolation", based on expert medical advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

“As much as getting Australians home is our top priority when it comes to utilising these quarantine arrangements, our other priority is to get Australia back to a safe level of engaging with the rest of the world,” Morrison added.

The PM has previously name-checked Japan and South Korea as countries that could fall into the ‘home quarantine’ basket, along with arrivals from some of Australia’s Pacific Island neighbours.

Enforcing home quarantine the real struggle

Two weeks prior to the nationwide adoption of mandatory hotel quarantine on March 29, self-isolation at home was introduced for travellers arriving from overseas.

However, random police checks of those supposed to be isolating found mixed levels of compliance, with some choosing to disregard the rules and venture into the community before their 14-day quarantine period had passed.

To assist with enforcement and compliance, Australia may look to follow the path of other countries that have made use of home quarantine for some travellers.

For example, while Singapore still relies on enforced hotel quarantine for many arrivals, some from lower-risk destinations can instead self-isolate at home.

Upon arrival in Singapore, those quarantining at home are issued with a smartwatch-style monitoring device that must be worn for the duration of their self-isolation period.

Smart tech and selfies

The gadget relays the person’s location to Singaporean authorities, and generates an alert if it has been removed, tampered with, or the individual leaves their nominated address during quarantine.

As well, the traveller will receive text messages from the government at various times, which must be responded to – as well as phone calls and video calls – and may still receive physical house visits from the authorities, too.

Those who breach Singapore’s strict self-isolation rules may be fined up to SGD$10,000 (A$10,384), and/or face up to six months in prison.

In Poland, a special 'Home Quarantine' smartphone app prompts users to take a selfie at random times throughout the day to prove they are at home, with 20 minutes to respond.

A combination of geolocation and facial recognition algorithms indicates if you're actually at your designated quarantine residence.

Balancing the risks

Even if home monitoring is enforced by technical means and backed up by randomised visits from authorities, there are other hurdles to consider – such as transmission between household members.

For example, if a person is permitted to quarantine at home after arriving from overseas, but lives with others who are not subject to the same restrictions, there’s a risk that an infected traveller could spread COVID-19 to other members of their household, who then carry that infection into the community.

When home isolation was previously allowed, various guidelines took this into account, suggesting that people follow social distancing even at home with family.

Sleeping in another room, using a separate bathroom and keeping a distance of 1.5 metres at all times were some of the precautions suggested by various Australian Government bodies, as well as regularly disinfecting surfaces and wearing a mask if strolling in the garden or passing through common property in unit blocks and other community living complexes.

Following the events in Victoria which saw the state adopting the nation’s tightest and lengthiest restrictions on movement and daily life, the Australian Government would likely move to minimise any risks associated with home quarantine, to avoid a repeat.

This could see home quarantine restricted to individuals who live alone, or to households where every member of the family or residence agrees to follow self-isolation rules, as an alternative to the traveller being quarantined in a hotel.

Ultimately, the proposal merely remains under consideration by the Australian Government – but if adopted, could help ease the strain on managed quarantine hotels: allowing more Australians to return home, but also, paving the way towards a gradual return of international return travel from Australia.

Also read: Qantas to launch rescue flights from London, New Delhi, Johannesburg

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 May 2017

Total posts 11

Our state governments are too busy arguing over border closures and trying to remember who made decisions to come up with such brilliant ideas like smart watch monitoring or selfie apps!

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 19

Peterking, please, Aussies have already proven they can't be trusted to self isolate. You expect them to now monitor there movement by wearing a smart watch or bracelet. They will protest it invades there privacy to be monitored. it will never happen.

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

11 Sep 2015

Total posts 36

Let's hope AusGov makes a better fist of smart technology for this than they have done with the Covid App.  A shambles  which they scarcely talk about any more.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 141

Places like Singapore and Hong Kong have used a tracking bracelet to monitor home quarantine progress and it's not hard to imagine Australia adopting something like this to better enforce home quarantine. Green zones could be for countries that have essentially 'eradicated' the virus or only have infections with traced origins whilst Amber zones could be for countries with little infection and perhaps some unknown origin cases. With sensible policies, I'm sure travel can resume to select countries. 

16 Oct 2020

Total posts 1

About time however sadly by the sounds of things this is going to take many months in itself.

Why the governments (federal and state) have been so slow to introduce this is beyond imagination. It has been effectively used in Asia since the start of the year and surprise surprise much lower cases then Australia. 

12 Feb 2013

Total posts 42

Works great in theory as long as they can distinguish (or relying on traveler's honesty) between origin (spending at least 14 days there) and transit passengers travelling who might be traveling from red to amber zone (transit) then into Australia. Or operate the Hong Kong - Singapore travel bubble model that dedicated flights into Australia are only carrying non transit passengers who have spent at least 14 days at point of origin immediately before Australia.

cxflyer

it's not about cases. Cases don't lead to deaths, UNLESS, someone gives it to vulnerable people. SO LOCK DOWN THE VULNERABLE ONLY.

Not one healthy person has died from corona.

Not sure who we are scared of ? Ambulance chasers ?

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

Regular healthy people have died from COVID, and according to your definition of vulnerable it is one third to one half of the population. Have fun with that.

paterickk

ahh no.

Healthy peeople don't die from corona. This is the whole con.

Looking at USA - last year 2.8m died so in 9 months, approx 3/4 of this or approx 2.1m (don't have breakdown), compared to approx 200k have died from corona supposedly.

Needs to be put into perspective.

It looks like we'll be heading for herd immunity after all.

Open all borders, with zero restrictions/zero quarantine.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

Regular you worry about deaths I worry about hospitalisation and 20% of people under 49 with COVID-19 require hospitalisation and despite what Trump says a proportion of them die. As we are seeing in Europe right now hospitals are being over run, which means the rest is who might need surgery or an emergency attendance can’t get it. At the moment under 10% have some antibodies that stay for a few months, hardly herd immunity.

pattrickk

no one has any numbers on how many have immunity, but suspect it's much higher than estimates.

Repeating, no healthy person dies, no matter what their age.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

Regular there have been numerous studies and large scale population testing to show how much there is and how long it lasts. They are not estimates.

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 19

regular flyer, you really have no idea! not one healthy person has died from corona. Where did you hear that rubbish from, the tiny friend you have inside your head. Many perfectly healthy people have died from Corona.

nope

not one healthy person has died from corona. Everyone who has supposedly died from corona, has had some underlying health issue.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

Regular as pretty well everybody has an underlying health issue of some sort: little bit over weight etc how are you going to isolate three quarters of the population. Anyway according to studies you won’t agree with such as the UK NHS it is around 5% have no identifiable underlying health condition. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 353

The brilliance of a passport... tells them everything they need to know

P
P

17 Jan 2018

Total posts 75

What a novel idea. Its comforting to know that we have the best politicians/leaders in the world coming up with innovative solutions to keep the economy going. We truly are the lucky country!

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

P we and Europe the US NZ and many others. Only East Asia has politicians who meet your standards.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2416

Several comments which are off-topic – that is, not directly related to this home isolation proposal – have been removed, including a range of broad comments on Covid-19 without direct relevance to the article. Readers are reminded to keep their comments under articles on the topic of that article. In other words: if you just want to have a rant, and are repeating the same rants you've made under other articles, this isn't the place for that.

12 Oct 2020

Total posts 9

Hi David, 

I'm just more concerned about the misinformation that gets represented or who choose to ignore the facts that are there. 

07 May 2020

Total posts 60

Can anyone make a sensible argument that a person resident in an Australian burb who tests positive to covid and can self isolate at home is any more trustworthy than someone else who arrives at an airport who may or may not even be infected? It just doesn't stack up and is and has always been an absurd proposition. And very very costly.

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 36

Yep it's a complete logical fallacy and yet one that is causing immense pain, family separation and suffering. Unbelievable. 

10 Aug 2020

Total posts 16

You should be able to travel anywhere you choose and self quarantine at home.. especially if you have suitable residence to do so without putting others at risk.. if you live alone or have separate flat or granny flat to isolate.. majority of people will do the right thing if not put deterrent in place.. I'm sure a ten grand fine or 3 month stint in the can would do the trick.. just open the borders.. 

10 Aug 2020

Total posts 16

The Australian government has to have better policies regarding travel it's way behind the rest of the world.. test on returning.. self isolation at home and another test to confirm your covid free on day 7 and 14.. for Australian citizens.. fair enough if tourists are coming and don't have a home here maybe they should just have to quarantine in hotels... 

And Australian citizens should have the right to leave Australia and abide by the country's they are entering.. I know alot of people who have partners and family overseas would be happy to leave and stay an extended period and maybe not return so what's the problem with doing that.

10 Aug 2020

Total posts 16

Patrickk honestly have you been asleep for the past 6 months.. wake up mate ya wrong.. there's been thousands of people who have had the virus in Australia through local transmission apparently. 

They don't have to go to hotel quarantine they are required to self isolate until they test negative.. it's controlled by isolating at home and contact tracing.. not hotel quarantine.. 

So yes it does seem to be working.......... 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

Tourer the vast majority of positives in the last three months are from incoming travelers (around 1 per cent of the total) who have hotel quarantine. If we let them out like the Ruby Princess they will go visit friends etc. If people test positive then they will isolate (being sick helps focus the mind ) if not they won't. Only about half self isolate while waiting for their results. There is a whole lot of 'ifs' and 'maybes' in your predictions about the rate of self isolation for people without symptons

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2416

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