Melbourne will begin accepting passengers from overseas next month, but they'll arrive without the hoped-for option of heading into home quarantine.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today ruled out home-based isolation for travellers returning from "low-risk" countries where Covid-19 is considered to be largely under control.
An interim report into Victoria's previous hotel quarantine scheme, which was considered responsible for a crippling 'second wave' outbreak, suggested a 'hybrid model' of hotel and home quarantine depending on where inbound passengers had come from.
However, Andrews says he will play it safe by continuing with traveller quarantine at selected hotels, as remains the practice around Australia.
"Having some novel approach in Victoria, which would almost certainly mean that other states were not comfortable with the arrangements, and therefore would close the borders, I think we're going to have a hotel-based system," Andrews confirmed, "but it will look and be different to what it was last time."
That said, Andrews indicated that some states favour the home quarantine option, and this could well be introduced once there's wider agreement on the issue.
"The Prime Minister and other first ministers made it clear that there is not a consensus, there is not a view at national cabinet level that home quarantine is an appropriate response to the risk we face at the moment," Andrews said.
International flights to Melbourne will restart on December 7 with an initial cap of 160 passengers a day or 1,120 per week.
By comparison, Sydney currently accepts 2,950 passengers per week, with around 1,000 per week at Brisbane and Perth.
Getting the green light
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suggested that a ‘traffic light’ system could rank nations according to how they were tracking with Covid-19 infections, and in turn be allow international arrivals from low-risk countries able to isolate at home rather than paying for a hotel.
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 also apply to two-way 'travel bubbles', provided the passenger hasn't visited any ‘amber’ or ‘red’ destinations in the previous 14 days.
Smartphones or electronic wristbands would be used to help enforce home quarantine.
Lightweight GPS-enabled bracelets are already used in a number of countries including Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.
They typically connect to a smartphone app and are used to make sure people actually stay at home by reporting the wearer's location to a government monitoring service.
Singapore's wristband, which also generates an alert if it has been removed or tampered with, is complemented by a program under which the wearer receives text messages, phone calls and sometimes even video calls from the country's health agency, which must be responded to.