COVID-19: Sydney and New Zealand back in the bubble
New Zealand announced that flights between Sydney and New Zealand can resume as of (11:59) midnight Sunday 9 May, after a three day suspension due to two cases of community transmission in Sydney.
There have been no other cases reported in Sydney, but the genomic ‘missing link’ between the returning traveller in quarantine, and the eastern suburbs couple has not yet been discovered.
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Sydney restrictions extended
There are renewed restrictions in Sydney for the last few days – since the cases were reported. Risk mitigation involving mask-wearing on public transport and other public places and restrictions on the number of visitors to homes (20) amongst other measures.
It was expected that these restrictions would be lifted as of Monday 10 May but instead, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has extended the restrictions until 12.01 am on Sunday17 May to avoid any potential ‘super-spreading event’.
Australian borders closed until 2022?
The Federal budget is scheduled to be brought down next week – given it is usually scheduled for the 2nd Tuesday in May. Coming up to the event, there is an avalanche of pre-budget leaks. That allows the government to spread the positive stories out over a week or 10 days, rather than have all the announcements on Tuesday.
The problem, as it often is, is that not everyone appears to be singing from the same songbook, or the response a minister was hoping for is not the response they get. Think – the travel ban on flights from India recently.
The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg told the ABC that part of the assumptions in preparing the budget was that:
“We have [made] an assumption based on the borders opening . . . in 2022.Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer, Commonwealth of Australia
Are we going for elimination in Australia?
And to muddy the waters further, our Prime Minister better known as ‘Scotty from marketing’ has had to clarify that the government won’t necessarily wait until COVID-19 is ‘eliminated’ before opening Australia’s borders. He has said the following in a facebook post:
‘Australia’s COVID suppression strategy has not changed to an ‘elimination’ strategy nor is ‘zero cases’ our goal as reported today.’‘Scotty’ on Facebook.
The returning vaccinated traveller quarantine conundrum
Many players are asking that those who have been vaccinated overseas not have to serve the current 14 days of quarantine. However, NSW Health is reporting cases of infections in returning passengers who are fully vaccinated. As I understand it, that may mean they are still capable of shedding the virus, and infecting others, although they themselves are protected from the worst symptoms of the virus.
While understanding there are lots of unknowns, like how infectious those who have been vaccinated are, and what percentage etc. It is time for the Australian Government to lay out its vision for a return to more open borders, and how we plan to live with the virus.
While applauding the government for closing our international borders so quickly, I must condemn them for not being able to run an effective vaccine campaign. They could however redeem themselves by laying out an appropriate return to open borders, with appropriate quarantine provisions.
I’m not an expert, but it seems it should be possible to design a regime which opens our borders to some extent and massively increases the number of people who can travel in and out of the country. That would allow foreign students to return, as well as some level of immigration. These two are essential to our longer term economic recovery.
We just need a quarantine system sufficiently well resourced to deal with it.