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Hotel quarantine to remain for some time even with COVID-19 jab

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Health experts say the coronavirus vaccine is not guaranteed to stop the spread of the highly-infectious disease so hotel quarantine will need to stay.

Special entry allowances could be granted for people wanting to come to Australia if they can prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The federal government is said to be considering granting international travellers and returning Australians an exemption.

But health experts are warning hotel quarantine would still need to be in place for some time, until herd immunity is achieved.

Australia's health department says it remains unclear whether two of the coronavirus vaccines slated for use here - AstraZeneca and Pfizer – will prevent the virus from being transmitted to others.

They are, however, confident of its effectiveness at reducing the severity of the disease.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid told the Sydney Morning Herald that our quarantine arrangements would remain "until we have at least all of our vulnerable population vaccinated and possibly the entire population".

Infectious diseases expert and WHO advisor Mary-Louise McLaws told Today it was vital hotel quarantine remained, for now at least.

A researcher in a laboratory at the Jenner Institute in Oxford, England works on the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

"There's still a high probability that even when we're vaccinated we may get silent or symptom-free COVID and we then might be able to theoretically pass it on to others," Professor McLaws said.

"We should get the vaccine because we won't get a very severe COVID or very terrible symptoms that will keep you in bed, but we still might be able to spread it to others."

Professor McLaws said questions remained about herd immunity and the level needed to achieve it.

She believes 80 to 90 per cent of the population would need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the jab to be effective.

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The vaccine rollout is likely to begin in March and will continue until at least October, she said.

"I think we need to get back to some sort of semblance of pre-COVID normal although that won't happen for a very, very long time because it will take us from March to October in a high resource country to get everybody vaccinated.

"The low-income countries won't be able to achieve that for several years. And when we travel overseas or travel interstate and come back, we're going to have an enormous problem with quarantine."

The government would need to utilise rapid testing technology which would allow vaccinated people to be screened quickly, and then be sent home with a test kit, she said.

Passengers queue for departure at Sydney Domestic Airport in Sydney. 19th Dec 2020

"We need to think scientifically and innovatively so we can get back to some semblance of normality."

AMA president Dr Khorshid said vaccinations were not a "silver bullet".

"At some point you've got to open up and accept that it is going to come through the population and just make sure that the vaccines have been distributed," Dr Khorshid told the SMH.

"There is no doubt these vaccines are not the silver bullet for our borders and we're going to see quarantine stay in place for many months to come ... if the government decides it wants the whole population vaccinated before we open up."

Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-exemptions-for-returning-australians-vaccinated-against-covid-19-under-consideration-hotel-quarantine/a8778eea-e262-4a3a-9314-38c2ee880a4e

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