Covid variant warning over NSW travel changes: 'Could stuff us up'

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Following the NSW government's decision to abandon quarantine for Australians returning home from overseas, one doctor has warned the risks of opening up to the world.

The decision, which was announced by the state's new premier Dominic Perrottet, allows for Australians and permanent residents to bypass hotel quarantine and isolate at home if they are fully vaccinated.

In addition to being fully vaccinated with a TGA approved vaccine, arrivals will have to return a negative Covid test before their flight.

On Friday night Dr Norman Swan told the ABC that NSW was doing well, however he questioned whether the state was doing well enough to ease international travel restrictions.

"People will come in with infection, PCR (testing) will not reliably detect them," he said.

Dr Norman Swan questioned whether NSW was doing well enough to allow international arrives to forgo hotel quarantine. Source: ABC
Dr Norman Swan questioned whether NSW was doing well enough to allow international arrives to forgo hotel quarantine. Source: ABC

"That will increase the caseload and increase the risk of variants coming in – remember variants are what could stuff us up."

The possibility of new variants in the Australian population is something state health officials have previously fretted over.

"This virus may throw us curve balls. You know, we've got the Delta variant," Dr Kerry Chant told reporters in August. 

“God help us if we have another variant."

NSW records 319 new cases on Saturday

On Saturday, NSW recorded 319 new locally-acquired Covid-19 cases and two further deaths as daily cases continue to trend downwards.

In NSW, 91.7 per cent of people aged over 16-years-old have had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, while 78.8 per cent of people aged over 16 are fully vaccinated.

PM and Qantas CEO back travel changes

While there are some reservations about the reopening borders in NSW, the move was embraced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

While Mr Morrison endorsed the move, he did clarify the federal government won't issue visas to facilitate quarantine-free entry for skilled workers, international students or tourists just yet, reiterating that was a matter for the Commonwealth government. 

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the decision was a "massive step towards life as we knew it".

"We have thousands of our pilots and cabin crew wanting to get back to work and they will be thrilled at today's announcement," he said.

"It will still be a long time before international travel returns to normal but this is a fantastic start."

NSW will become the first jurisdiction to allow for international arrivals to return without needing to quarantine. Source: AAP
NSW will become the first jurisdiction to allow for international arrivals to return without needing to quarantine. Source: AAP

Other state leaders push back on quarantine free arrivals

While the Prime Minister is on board with the plan in NSW, other state leaders are not.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said arrivals in Sydney wouldn't be welcome in his state.

"It's obviously not in accordance with the national plan, what's going on over there," he said.

"If you return from overseas and you don't do two weeks of hotel quarantine in NSW, you're not going to be permitted to come into WA."

More than 45,000 Australians are stranded overseas with tight arrival caps and border restrictions hampering their return.

Australia has fully vaccinated 66.3 per cent of its eligible population aged 16 and over, while 84 per cent have received their first dose.

with AAP

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