Australia has officially passed the critical milestone of 70 per cent of the 16+ population fully vaccinated, triggering “Phase B” of the national plan out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The four-stage reopening plan was agreed to by all states and territories at National Cabinet, as the federal government pushed to create a form of unity and cohesion between the different COVID-19 restrictions that exist in each state.
It’s important to remember much of these rules are guidelines more than hard and fast laws — ultimately state governments hold the final say in restrictions such as wearing masks and state borders.
Here’s what we know about Phase B of the National Plan.
What is Phase B of the National Plan?
Phase B of the transition under Australia’s national COVID-19 response is the second of four reopening stages.
Phase B is initiated when the national vaccination rate of two doses hits 70 per cent, as it did this morning.
Phase B is also called the “vaccination transition phase”, with a key objective being a minimisation of hospitalised COVID-19 patients while also relaxing restrictions.
You can read the National Plan in full in PDF format here.
Does that mean lockdowns are now over?
Under the national plan, states and territories agreed to a measure which said: “lockdowns less likely but possible”.
Many states, such as Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, have indicated any future lockdowns — if they are needed at all — would be highly localised in nature and unlikely to include whole states or regions.
Does this mean international borders will reopen?
To a degree.
Under Phase B, the federal government has indicated it will allow capped entry of student and economic visa holders “subject to quarantine arrangements and availability”.
Additionally, caps on international visitors will grow slightly but remain at “low-level”.
International visitors will need to undergo “safe and proportionate quarantine”.
There are no specifics in the National Plan as to what the international passenger caps are, or their quarantine arrangements once they land (which are likely to be governed by the state they land in).
It’s likely 14 days in managed quarantine, such as medical hotels, will only apply to unvaccinated foreign travellers.
Will there be any change to the vaccine rollout?
One of the measures included in Phase B is the preparation or implementation of a vaccine booster programme.
Some states are already administering third doses – or booster shots – to highly immunocompromised people.
The vaccine rollout for ordinary Australians will continue as normal with the current programs in place depending on which state or territory you live in.
What’s the point of the national plan if the states hold all of the power?
The National Plan does not add to or remove from the constitutional power the states and territories have. It’s more a guiding model with principles and measures that are meant to be adopted across the country.
It’s important to note that all states and territories agreed to the National Plan at National Cabinet on August 6 earlier this year.
Effectively, the National Plan is to get all states and territories to apply similar or the same COVID-19 restrictions, in the knowledge that the current raft of restrictions cannot exist forever.Internet Explorer Channel Network