Quarantine is here to stay until at least 2022, even for international travellers who've been fully vaccinated, although the time they spend in quarantine could be reduced.
That's the prediction of Federal Health Secretary Brendan Murphy, and it could somewhat dampen the spirits of many would-be jetsetters as the lure of overseas travel hangs on the horizon.
"Given the state of COVID around the world, it's inconceivable that we would get away without some form of supervised quarantine – at least this year and sometime into next year," Murphy told the government's Senate health estimates session yesterday evening.
"But it may not be for weeks," he added, saying the government was exploring quarantine options beyond the current 14-day period.
"Maybe for example you could have different forms of quarantine, where vaccinated people from low-risk countries might have a lower period of quarantine."
Murphy's comments appear to embrace the concept of a 'traffic light' system flagged by Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year and already implemented in varying degrees by several other countries, which would rank nations according to their COVID-19 status.
Travellers arriving from from 'red' countries and regions would spend a fortnight in hotel isolation, while arrivals from 'amber' destinations might be face a shorter isolation period or be permitted to quarantine at home, especially if they've been fully vaccinated.
Entry from a country or territory zoned 'green' – including travel bubble destinations, such as is currently the case with New Zealand – would not require any quarantine period, as long as they hadn't visited any 'amber' or 'red' destinations in the previous 14 days.
The government's 2021 budget assumed "a population-wide vaccination program is likely to be in place by the end of 2021", although this may not mean that everyone has received both jabs of the two-shot vaccines come December 31, especially allowing for the 12-week delay between AstraZeneca injections.
All the same, the country's international borders are not expectedly to widely reopen until the second half of 2022, with the exception of overseas travel returning on a country-by-country basis.