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.”
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.