By Claire Matthews
Australia’s national leaders have developed a new plan to help transition the country out of COVID-19 restrictions and into a new normal.
The plan is set out in four phases and aims to increase vaccinations, reduce the need for lockdowns and manage COVID-19 like any other infectious disease.
Each stage of the plan will be implemented after a vaccination threshold has been reached, but there is no concrete timeline yet. The program uses scientific modelling to predict the behaviour of the disease in the population, recommend vaccination targets, and minimise risks.
The first phase has already started and focuses on suppressing the virus to minimise community transmission. Lockdowns and border closures will be used as a last resort.
The second phase eases restrictions for vaccinated Australians during outbreaks or lockdowns. It allows home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in Australia and also limits international students.
In the third phase, travel restrictions for overseas holidays further than New Zealand will be lifted. The travel bubble will be increased to Singapore, the Pacific, and other countries deemed suitable. Australia will also increase its intake of international students and people with humanitarian visas.
The final stage will lift all restrictions, but only if a high level of vaccination has been achieved. For those who arrive in the country unvaccinated, testing and some restrictions will still apply.
Overall, the plan reflects a two-layered population, those who are vaccinated and those who are not. Instead of blanket lockdowns and border closures, those who have had the jab would have more freedom.
It’s not clear exactly when each stage of the plan will be rolled out, but the current stage could continue for the next five months. Then, the second phase could start early next year.
The future looks hopeful for those wishing to travel overseas without fear of sudden lockdowns and quarantines, but there’s still much work to be done.
See more about the national plan here: https://www.pm.gov.au/sites/default/files/media/national-plan-to-transition-australias-national-covid-19-response-july-2021.pdf.