National Cabinet agrees to COVID-19 vaccine targets, halve international arrivals

National Cabinet has agreed to halve the number of people allowed into Australia each week and to set up vaccination targets.

By July 14, international arrivals will be capped at 3,035 people a week, down from 6,370 and will be in place until at least the start of next year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said if the medical advice on the caps changed, National Cabinet would consider changing the caps sooner.

Commercial flight numbers will be cut, but Mr Morrison said the Commonwealth, in response to this, would increase the number of repatriation flights.

There are no details, though, on how many extra flights will be provided.

The move is a win for the Victorian, Queensland and West Australian governments, who were calling for a significant reduction to the passenger caps until a larger share of the population is vaccinated.

He also announced the federal government, based on medical advice, would conduct a trial of a shorter seven-day quarantine period with a small number of vaccinated travellers, instead of 14 days.

Mr Morrison said South Australia had flagged its willingness to work with the government on the trial.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said no changes would be made to the state’s quarantine arrangements for the trial unless they were approved by SA Health, and would not come into effect until later this year.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said testing had shown seven days of home quarantine “can be very similar to the outcome of 14 days’ hotel quarantine”.

“If people are staying at home, it can actually be safer for them and the community because of the decreased interaction with staff,” he said.

Four-phase vaccine target plan

As for vaccination targets, the Prime Minister said a percentage target would be decided once modelling showed how many people would need the jab for it to be effective against the spread of the Delta variant.

But the group of state and territory leaders did agree to a four-phase plan.

Mr Morrison stressed several measures were being considered for when the population reached the first yet-to-be-determined target.

“To ease restrictions on vaccinated residents, such as lockdowns and border controls,” he said.

Reaching the vaccine target in the second phase would also mean international travel caps would lift for unvaccinated and vaccinated travellers.

“To restore inbound passenger caps at that time to previous levels for unvaccinated returning travellers and then even larger caps for those who are vaccinated,” Mr Morrison said.

“We would be allowing a capped entry of student and economic visa holders, subject to quarantine arrangements and availability.”

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