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"Completely back to normal": Scott Morrison unveils new 4-step plan for tackling COVID-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants Australians to know that he has "a new deal for Australians" when it comes to tackling COVID-19. 

It's a four-part plan to get the country, in his words, "completely back to normal".

Agreed upon by state and federal leaders at Friday's National Cabinet Meeting, the plan aims to move Australia from a strategy designed to suppress community transmission, to one where enough of us are vaccinated that we can live more safely with the virus and focus on preventing serious illness and death.

Getting there involves a range of tactics, including pushing on with the beleaguered vaccine rollout, making significant cuts to international arrivals and trying new quarantine arrangements. 

The Prime Minister did stress that the precise details of the phases would be finalised in the coming weeks based on medical information and modelling. So, unfortunately, the 'whens' of it all are still rather up in the air.

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Here's what you need to know about National Cabinet's "new deal".

Phase One: suppression phase.

What does it involve?

  • Continuation of the national vaccination rollout "to offer every Australian an opportunity to be vaccinated with the necessary doses of the relevant vaccine as soon as possible". The PM said, at the current rate of vaccinations and with the delivery of additional doses coming in the fourth quarter, it's predicted that this will be completed by the end of the year.
  • Temporarily slashing international arrives on commercial flights by 50 per cent to 3035 passengers per week. This will happen by July 14 and is designed to take the pressure off the hotel quarantine system amid the threat of the more virulent Delta strain. 
  • A trial of alternative quarantine options for international arrivals, including seven-day at-home quarantine for vaccinated passengers. South Australia has offered to run a pilot program.

When will happen? Now. This is the current phase of Australia's COVID-19 response.

Phase Two: minimise serious illness, hospitalisation and fatalities.

What does it involve?

  • Lockdowns only occurring in extreme circumstances to prevent escalating hospitalisation and fatality.
  • International arrival caps restored to previous levels for unvaccinated passengers and "even greater levels" for vaccinated ones.
  • Capped entry of student and economic visa holders.
  • The rollout of new quarantine measures, pending the results of those small-scale trials.

When will it happen? 

This is where things get vague. The Prime Minister said that phase two will happen "once we reach a threshold of vaccination to be determined by the modelling process". He said that threshold may, for example, include targets for vulnerable portions of the population.

"I hope we're getting in that second phase next year," he said.

Listen: The Quicky speaks to an expert epidemiologist, and a national political reporter to cut through the overload of information about the AstraZeneca vaccine.


Phase Three: "consolidation".

What does it involve?

The aim is that by this point Australia will be in a position to manage COVID-19 like other infectious diseases, such as the flu. The Prime Minister said that could (he stressed that these measures are yet to be finalised) mean...

  • No lockdowns or state border restrictions. And no public health restrictions for vaccinated people. 
  • A vaccine booster program gets underway.
  • An end to caps on vaccinated international arrivals.
  • A significant increase in caps on the arrival of student and economic visa holders.
  • Lifting all restrictions on out-bound travel for vaccinated Australians and extending the travel bubble for unrestricted travel to new countries such as Singapore.

When will it happen? T.B.D.

Phase Four: Completely normal.

What does it involve?

  • Uncapped inbound arrivals for all vaccinated persons without quarantine.
  • Uncapped arrivals for non-vaccinated travel subject to pre-flight and on-arrival COVID testing.

When will it happen: T.B.D. (and in our sweet, sweet daydreams). 

Feature image: Getty.