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COVID-19: National Cabinet – International arrival capacity lowered by 50% – 4 Phase plan

COVID-19: National Cabinet – International arrival capacity lowered by 50% – 4 Phase plan

In response to requests from most state premiers, but not Gladys-Beryl Jillian – NSW premier, our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has lowered arriving passenger capacity limits to 50% of current levels by 14 July. That’s a reduction in arrivals from the current 6,370 to 3,185.

The PM has also outlined a 4 Stage pathway to returning to almost ‘normal’. Unfortunately, there are few hard facts, like dates and milestones and vaccination rates. Doesn’t sound like the policymakers have been doing anything over the past 18 months or so to create a plan for the future, other than stating the bloody obvious.

a group of people sitting in chairs in a room with a wall of glass
Hamad Airport Business Lounge, Doha

How long?

The 50% lowered capacity limits are scheduled to be implemented by 14 July, – so less than 2 weeks away. These limits will last until we come out of the current ‘Phase One’ stage (see below). That means until we meet a yet-to-be-determined threshold percentage of the population vaccinated – we don’t even know if that means 1 or 2 vaccine shots. If it’s one shot, then we are looking at the end of 2021, and if it means 2 shots, then we will be well into 2022 – in time for the northern hemisphere late summer if we are lucky.

Repatriation Flights

The PM has promised to increase repatriation flights into Darwin, with 14 days quarantine at Howard Springs while commercial flight limits into capital cities are lowered by 50%. The PM noted that demand for repatriation flights had been dwindling recently. That’s probably because in most areas, other than the Indian sub-continent, vaccination rates are increasing, and infection and death rates are lowering.

Phasers to ‘normal’

The PM announced a 4 phase plan to return us to ‘normal’ but with little explicit detail. Apparently that’s to be worked out with the Doherty Institute over the next few weeks, which beggers the question what have the health boffin policy makers been doing for the last 18 months?

Here is what we know about the phases:

  • Phase 1 – This is the current phase. The states will pilot some other quarantine options including home quarantine. Trials in South Australia for student entry to continue. Digital vaccination certificates continue to be tested/trialled – with improvements such as the ability to add them to things like Apple Wallet. A further review of the hotel quarantine network will be implemented.
  • Phase 2Post Vaccination – once a yet-to-be-defined percentage of the population is vaccinated. Results will include no lockdowns except in extreme circumstances, international arrival capacity limits return to normal for unvaccinated people plus a higher limit for vaccinated travellers. Capped entry of students. Development of a vaccine booster program.
  • Phase 3 – manage COVID-19 similarly to other infectious diseases. This will be reached when fatality rates are around the same as for the flu. There will be no capacity limits on vaccinated passenger entry. Restrictions on outbound travel to be lifted.
  • Phase 4 – life as normal, but with un-vaccinated arrivals still going into 14-day quarantine.
a large building with an escalator

2PAXfly Takeout

This is another timely reminder to wear your seatbelt when seated. Holding you close to your seat will protect you from the sort of injuries sustained on this flight, when unsecured passengers flew to the ceiling of the aircraft, and then came crashing down once the ‘drop’ ceased.

The hope will be that this is an anomaly – a ‘freak accident’ in casual parlance. If it is a systemic error either mechanical or electronic, then this is a larger concern for the airlines that fly Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft. Let’s hope it isn’t. If it is, it will pile on the woes to Boeing’s existing stack.

This will be a big disappointment for people wishing to return to Australia. On the other hand, the fewer cases of COVID we have in Australia and the sooner we all get vaccinated, then the closer we get to the borders re-opening.

I think most of us travel obsessed flyers will welcome that!

My issue is about putting a few actual dates and percentages around this. The Commonwealth government knows what vaccines it has ordered, and should know when they are arriving. Surely they can actually co-ordinate supply and delivery into peoples arms with the states?

If they can do that, then they should already be able to put some dates around that Phase 4 plan – admittedly with some caveats. The can’t predict outbreaks, delays in vaccine delivery, or vaccine resistance – although they currently seem to be determined to befuddle the Australian population about when and if to be vaccinated!

There should be sufficient data from overseas – Europe and the USA especially to determine the vaccination rates that will trigger the transitions from phase to phase. Are we talking 50%, 75%, 80%, what? Are we talking partially vaccinated (1 jab) or fully vaccinated?

FFS, these politicians couldn’t organise a look out of a window.

Anyway, I did take advantage of a Smythson sale to order my new, now 60% off travel wallet.

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