Australia completes home quarantine trial for overseas arrivals

The pilot scheme will help chart new options for Australians returning from 'low-risk' countries.

By Chris Chamberlin, September 3 2021
Australia completes home quarantine trial for overseas arrivals

With Australia's borders expected to begin reopening and international flights returning from the end of this year, all eyes are on the home quarantine trial that wraps up in South Australia this weekend.

Under the government's Covid-19 roadmap, reaching the 80% vaccination milestone – now on track for mid-November – will trigger not only a “gradual reopening of inward and outward international travel with safe countries” but “proportionate quarantine and reduced requirements for fully vaccinated inbound travellers.”

This is expected to include the welcome option of spending any post-travel quarantine period in the comfort of your home, rather than a government-arranged hotel with a $3,000 price tag.

Australians returning from 'low-risk' countries – as opposed to unrestricted travel bubble destinations – could see their isolation period reduced to seven days or less.

Expert medical advice “shows that a vaccinated person doing quarantine for seven days is stronger than an unvaccinated person doing quarantine for 14 days,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted when announcing the trial in July this year.

Earlier this week, Morrison reiterated that “home quarantine needs to be a viable and widespread option for people who are travelling overseas and returning,” as well as “people who are overseas and have been vaccinated with the vaccines that are recognised in Australia.”

Inside the SA home quarantine trial

To help assess the home quarantine option, South Australia last month allowed 50 residents of the state to participate in the country's first trial of self-managed home quarantine after returning from overseas on August 22.

The 14-day trial comes to an end this weekend, and the outcome of the pilot program will be eagerly examined by national and state health authorities as an isolation measure for some international arrivals.

A cornerstone of the trial was the use of smartphone technology to monitor and enforce the 'stay at home' rule.

“Australia’s first home quarantine trial has been enabled by the Home Quarantine SA app,” a spokesperson for South Australia’s Department of Premier and Cabinet tells Executive Traveller.

Available for Android and iOS devices, the Home Quarantine SA app is designed to “ensure that people are compliant with their home quarantine direction, and ensures they are at their approved home quarantine address.”

High-tech monitoring

The app automatically confirmed each person's location at random times throughout the day, using GPS check-in plus facial recognition as an additional layer of security.

It also asked travellers to complete daily Covid-19 symptom checks and kept them informed of their required testing schedules.

The only times that participants in the trial were allowed to leave home was to visit a drive-through Covid test centre, which had to be done in their own vehicle rather than using taxi or rideshare services or public transport.

In approach, the Home Quarantine SA app works along the same lines as G2G Now, which is used to monitor domestic home quarantine in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

However, “the technology is the most advanced of its kind in Australia, and if the trial proves successful, could provide more options for home quarantine for returned South Australians,” says the SA Department of Premier and Cabinet spokesperson.

Also read: Qantas to resume international flights in December

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

02 Jun 2018

Total posts 1

Hi Chris

What are the range of possible quarantining arrangements NSW might put in place for returning travellers if they opened us up to international travel in Nov do you think?

Thanks, Philip   

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

Anything which progresses our current situation is good. Technology is one way forward if we insist on keeping some forms of quarantine. I experienced this in 2 other countries over the last 6 months and it works very well. Sure, it will not be complied with by 100% of the people but generally it will be adhered to, which is what we need. 

08 May 2020

Total posts 65

Methods like Home Quarantine are 6 months behind schedule. It should have been available a long time ago, even if Ankle Bracelets were to be used. The same applies the use of Rapid Antigen Test kits for  self testing at home. The sad part of the Australian outbreaks in Victoria could have been much reduced had every Household had rapid Test kits at their Home. There are sections of the Community which simply will not turn up at a Testing station.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

We are very slow in Australia. When I returned recently, I applied 3 times to home quarantine. I offered to surrender my passport, give a $10,000 bond and wear any electronic device they required. All to give assurance I would stay behind closed doors on my own for 14 days. It was not even considered, and so I blocked up a hotel room all for no reason!

The actual 14 day quarantine in a hotel was very easy actually but so wasteful of taxpayers money. $3000 does not in any way cover the cost of the quarantine program.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1368

The issue is having visitors, so random doorknocks (or the threat of them) or dobbing from neighbours may also be required, with a very big fine for non compliance.

31 Dec 2014

Total posts 36

But if the visitor is more likely to have covid that the person in quarantine what’s the problem?

NSW (and soon Victoria) rates of infection are exceeding much of the rest of the world right now.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1368

sydunipete I'm not sure which part of the rest of the world you are referring to.   On new cases per 1 million population Australia is 78 or 130 and those below us mostly have poor record keeping and testing capacity to find out.  Those that are reliable and below us are Singapore, Taiwan, china, and NZ. Hardly much of the rest of the world.

31 Dec 2014

Total posts 36

I'm not even sure why home quarantine will be required for vaccinated travellers as the number of local cases increase. Take NSW as an example. Currently I'm more than three times likely to catch covid in NSW than I am in Sweden.

Keep some form of quarantine for those that test positive at the border otherwise send vaccinated and tested negative passengers on their way with a couple of antigen tests so they can test themselves say at 3 and 7 days.

Quarantine not backed by medical evidence is xenophobia.

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 129

what if someone does not have their own car, what do they do then when it comes to going to do the covid tests? 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

We need to think much bigger picture than this. If fully vaccinated and no symptoms, no need to test. Or we should have in-house testing available. The UK has free at home testing for all people. School kids, everyone. It is no good trying to test as we are now, that is costing Australia about $40 million every day!

Sure, some people will still catch it and spread it, there is no zero risk available here. Life must go on with simple precautions. Covid is here now, it will be with us for a long time, everyone needs to change their mindset and accept we cannot continue as we are now.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 67

I have the same question.

At least the Home Quarantine SA app works on older versions of iOS (10+), which is more than can be said for the IATA app, which requires iOS 13 and later. My device is only three years old but can't be upgraded beyond iOS 12, which means you not only have to have a smartphone but a new smartphone. What genius thought that one up?

11 Aug 2021

Total posts 2

Hmm, the all iPhones from the iPhone 6s (released 6 years ago in 2015) can run iOS 13. 

Maybe it is possible for your phone to update?

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 67

Thanks, austom. I should have been clearer. My device is an iPod touch 6th gen, which cannot be updated beyond iOS 12. Of course it might be that an actual smartphone is compulsory for travel nowadays.

07 May 2020

Total posts 136

This is a cruel tease. 8 different states, 8 different set of Health Orders and 8 different quarantine policies. No Federal control whatsoever over what each state can do. The Prime Minister can announce whatever he wants regarding opening international borders, but if a state premier doesn't want to change their quarantine conditions, there is nothing the Prime Minister can do. In fact he abdicated Federal responsibility back in March 2020 by not using the Biosecurity Act to manage regulations around quarantine. It was his biggest mistake which he now has to live through.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 72

Nice photo choice. Is that coffee? Enjoy your weekend fellow travellers :)

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 599

Not quite sure that international arrivals pose such a great risk these days in the states where they have finally accepted the reality and are learning to live with Covid. 

Based on the daily reports NSW now has over 1200 cases of day, all of home are allowed to home quarantine and lord knows how many close contacts. Yet hotel quarantine is giving less than 5 cases a day but are required to quarantine under supervision. Where is the greater risk?

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

That’s a really good point! Why are we spending millions each day to find 1 or 2 cases at most when there are over a thousand each day just in NSW?

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 190

Exactly.  As a fully vaccinated Australian (with Pfizer since April) living in California what risk exactly do I now pose to either NSW or Victoria if I’m tested before departure and after arrival?  The old days of zero covid are over for Australia, so should the forced hotel quarantine be.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

Absolutely!

31 Dec 2014

Total posts 36

Exactly. Putting the fallacy of zero covid behind us opens up a whole new paradigm.

If you’re a member of the community and test positive you’re allowed to quarantine at home. If you’re an inbound traveller and test negative you’re forced into a hotel.

It makes no sense in the new world.

04 Nov 2020

Total posts 14

Honestly, it’s a bit late Australia introduces this. And haven’t they looked towards other countries that have used a similar system during the last year or so? To base it solely on an app, makes it too easy to breach your quarantine requirements. It has to be combined with a bracelet or something, that you can’t get off during your quarantine period, and which automatically informs the authorities, if you move outside the parameters, of which it’s registered. Such a system worked well in Hong Kong, until they changed to hotel quarantine. Then neighbours don’t have to dub you in, it happens automatically.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1368

Kenneth how does the bracelet account for visitors. That is where the neighbours come in.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

Once we allow international travel, we don’t need quarantine very much if at all. Neighbours will not be needed. There will be Covid in each state so trying to stop the very few extra cases escaping quarantine is a waste of time. We deal with it. 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1368

Experience in other places (and Sydney) suggests getting on top of escaping cases from quarantine is key, rather than a waste of time. We deal with it by identifying them quickly.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

Your thinking is way out of date! The virus is here now.  Spending multiple millions of dollars to stop 1 or 2 cases escaping while there are thousands in the community is foolish. 

04 Nov 2020

Total posts 14

Fair point. But initially the point is for you not to be out in society in the first place. 

Guess a 100% system doesn’t exist, unless you are put in an isolation cell in prison 😂

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

Yes the bracelet worked very well for me in HK. It still relies on each person to do the correct thing. Most people do. 

06 Jun 2017

Total posts 28

Quarantine has to be respected and strictly followed. The problem is that all people can’t be trusted to follow protocols. There are plenty that like to make up their own interpretation of how the rules work so they can do what they would rather do.

I have had to home quarantine, so I have that experience, but the people keeping tabs on me have said that lots like to “bend” the rules.

People set on breaking the rules will find a way around anything put in place to prevent that happening. Heavy fines and/ or jail is the only way I see will discourage these practices.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

The virus is here right now. It is foolish to spend millions of dollars on quarantine to try to stop 1 or 2 cases coming in when it’s already here. Imagine if we spent all the money wasted over the last 18 months on Hospitals and education??!!

06 Jun 2017

Total posts 28

My other concern is that the decision makers fully understand that by opening up, some people are going to die. The UK have opened up and infections and deaths have dramatically increased. Who takes responsibility for that? So, who will take responsibility if Australia opens up similarly, and the same happens here?

The question is “Is the economic benefit to the country worth more than the lives that will be lost,  and even those lost because hospitals are too full to manage the Covid affected inflow, or should we not be bothered to be concerned about what will happen to others, especially those still unvacciinated.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

People die every day. It is not the government’s role to stop everyone dying. We need to all take our own responsibility for our own lives. And yes the economic benefit is definitely worth a few lives. That’s hard for some to accept but that is the way it’s always been in human life. 

06 Jun 2017

Total posts 28

What a crass and unfeeling statement. It IS the Government’s role to stop people dying because of this virus. 

The Government stuffed up the whole process from the beginning and are now happy to excuse themselves by declaring that it is now unstoppable. The “spin” has been swallowed by the gullible and the Federal Government is now trying to blame the successful states for not opening up. Those states citizens have worked and tolerated a lot to get where they are today, and to open up, allow the virus in before it’s safe enough is madness. Who then takes responsibility for those who will then DIE? 

All the work put in by tens of thousands of medical staff dealing directly with, and treating those with the virus,  will see all of that unravel if you have your way, and tragically, families will have to deal with death when they need not.

Those particular state economies are doing just fine, because they are open under their own terms. 

Vaccination for at least 90% IS the only way. That 10% that don’t want to get vaccinated can take the risk. THEN opening up can be considered.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

Yes it is a little crass. However it is reality. It will play out in front of your very eyes over the next few months. We can all have noble thoughts. They unfortunately will amount to very little. Economically we need to open up and so we will. 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1368

Richard yes it is the governments job to stop people dying. That is what health systems are for.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

They let people die each and every day. The health systems in QLDs and WA are at breaking point right now with no virus cases. And yet they decide to spend multiple millions of dollars to waste on testing for something which is coming to them anyway. Imagine if they spent their money properly not as they are now which is spending it politically to try to get re-elected. 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

Health systems are there for if you are ill. A government can provide education but each person is responsible for their own health. A government overreaches when they lock up perfectly healthy humans who are not criminals. 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

If it is the government’s job to stop people dying why is smoking and drinking still allowed. Those 2 things kill more than any virus. It is your decision if you smoke or drink to excess just as it is your decision to wear a mask and get vaccinated or not. Your choice not the government. 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1368

Generally smoking an drinking are not contagious and lethal to others in the short term, that is why COVID has the attention it deserves.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 599

Death rates in the UK have not dramatically increased. Just google UK COVID death rates and a graph will pop up. It will show an increase since they opened up but not a frantic one. The graph for infections of course does show an dramatic increase after they opened up that then dropped raised again and is now flat lining. And note the death rate is not following case rates, which of course is thanks to Vaccinations. 

And that’s the whole point really. There has to be a time where you trust vaccinations keep death rate under control but the reality is there will be deaths. Key is to minimise those deaths, they are impossible to eliminate and whilst I’m not complaining what Australia has done is delayed the inevitable. 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1368

AJW it is not only deaths but over run hospitals that can’t treat anything else. That is why Iceland with 86% fully vacced and Scotland are bringing back a range of public health measures. England will follow it is just Boris keeps letting hi ego get in the way.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 168

Hospitals in Queensland and WA right now are at capacity with no virus cases. And yest instead of dealing with that we spend $40 million a day on useless testing. We are so poorly led by all political leaders who make terrible choices. 

CP
CP

SilkAir - KrisFlyer

28 Mar 2017

Total posts 17

Whilst we have a divided nation, politically and socially, we have little hope of free travel anywhere.  Our founding fathers clearly did not envision the 'united' Federation that we are now saddled with.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 72

So true I'm just happy I was priveliged to live in this beautiful country during the free 70's 80's 90's like I am sure many of you. 

07 May 2020

Total posts 136

Scott Morrisons biggest mistake. Not using the Biosecurity Act in March 2020 to take control of a national quarantine program. Instead he let each state do their own thing and lost all control. And now he is helpless and floundering trying to be significant. 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1368

GoRobin, he had full charge of quarantine through the constitution. He did nothing and left it up to the states which they have done, to varying degrees of effectiveness. NSW and Victoria not so good. The rest generally very good except for a smallish outbreak in Tassie.

07 May 2020

Total posts 136

No patrickk...there is no provision in the constitution for dealing with a biosecurity threat. As I said, it is the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act which has provisions for dealing with biosecurity threats. Morrison did not invoke that act to deal with quarantine, and hence each state made up it's own mish mash of quarantine regulations via various state health orders. That is why there is no consistency between states and Morrison is relegated to the side line.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1368

My point exactly Sco-Mo did not use the quarantine powers granted to him.

07 May 2020

Total posts 136

I agree with everything you have mentioned Richard W. It is going to be a long and tortuous task for Australia to re engage with international travel. I wouldn't be surprised if history records that Australians remained isolated from the world for 2 to 3 years during the pandemic of the 21 st century.

Can home quarantine if positive in NsW or VIC but no such luck if test negative before flying into Australia (that is if you can actually get a flight) you still have to pay to stay in a hotel for 14 days And be tested throughout

It is time for Australia to get its head out of the sand and start dealing with CoVID long term which it will now always be, the world is already acknowledging that Australians are being held prisoners in their own country and having a good laugh

We are going to get to the point where also due to lock downs, families being separated internally and overseas that mental health admissions to hospitals and death by suicides are higher than COVID deaths and admissions. The scenes of a 3 year old being reunited with his Mum due to heartless politicians is just one example of this.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2517

Comments on this article will be temporarily closed as they have once again veered off the basic topic of home quarantine and into tired back-and-forth over government policy and Covid itself. 

Comments on this article are now closed