By Meena Thiruvengadam
Feb 16, 2021
AUSTRALIA’S CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, Paul Kelly, doesn’t see enough evidence that vaccines limit COVID-19 transmission to waive the country’s quarantine requirements, Agence France-Presse reports. Most non-citizens are currently banned from entering Australia, and even residents face strict entry quotas. Everyone entering Australia is required to quarantine at an approved facility at their own expense at a cost of A$3,000.
Kelly acknowledged data showing Astra-Zeneca’s vaccine can reduce COVID-19 transmission but says he remains committed to vigilance. “At the moment, that two-week quarantine in hotels—as has been so successful up til now—remains regardless of vaccination,” he told AFP.
And while it has helped the country nearly eliminate COVID-19, even Australia’s quarantine system hasn’t been perfect. An outbreak stemming from a quarantine hotel in Melbourne in July is believed to have sparked the spread of more than 90 percent of Australia’s COVID-19 cases, the BBC said.
Australia has reported nearly 29,000 cases of COVID-19 and just more than 900 deaths since the pandemic began. It largely closed its borders in March but has since created a travel bubble with New Zealand, allowing for some travel between the countries. That bubble was suspended for three days last month after a passenger returning to New Zealand tested positive for coronavirus.
More than 211,000 people have passed through Australian quarantine during the pandemic, according to a tally from the BBC. Two weeks in a quarantine hotel costs A$3,000 per adult traveling alone; for families, it’s A$3,000 for the first adult, A$1,000 for the second adult, and A$500 per additional child older than three.
The Australian government does plan to increase caps on overseas arrivals and is mulling ways to expand quarantine capacity, AFP said. Australia also plans to begin vaccinations of its own residents this month.