Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled a new plan to outline a "pathway" out of lockdown with millions of Australians currently under strict restrictions.
The loose plan was agreed to at a National Cabinet meeting on Friday and involves four phases, the PM told reporters in Canberra.
"The first phase is the one we are in," Mr Morrison said and involves vaccinating and preparing for more supply to arrive in Australia.
"We continue to suppress the virus. That involves the implementation of the national vaccination plan," he said in a week where the sluggish nature of the program has drawn heated criticism.
The plan also involves a temporary reduction in the commercial inbound passenger arrivals by 50 per cent from current caps – something some state leaders have been calling for.
The Commonwealth will also facilitate more flights to repatriate Australians, who will quarantine at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.
The current preparation stage involves work on an eventual vaccine booster program and a review of the troubled hotel quarantine system.
"We will put in place a digital vaccination authentication at border that we will prepare now," Mr Morrison said.
"As we already are the vaccine booster program and there will be a further review of the national hotel quarantine network."
Lockdowns should be considered a last resort by state leaders.
More freedoms and travel bubbles for those vaccinated
Phase two and three involve looser border restrictions and greater freedoms for those who are vaccinated and are not expected to commence until next year at the earliest, given the lack of vaccine supply.
That will include exempting vaccinated residents from all domestic travel restrictions and abolishing caps on returning vaccinated travellers. The government would also increase entry for student, economic and humanitarian visa holders.
It would also see Australia lift “all restrictions on outbound travel for vaccinated persons and extending the travel bubble for unrestricted travel to new candidate countries such as Singapore, the Pacific and potentially other candidates,” Mr Morrison said.
The finer details of these phases are yet to be worked out.
For them to unfold, the federal government has to see a large percentage of the population vaccinated. That would diminish the threat of the disease, the PM said.
"When it is like the flu, we should treat it like the flu and that means no lockdowns," he added.
While the states have cited 70 to 80 per cent of the population vaccinated as the necessary threshold, the prime minister would not be drawn on a number.
"If you get vaccinated, you get to change how we live as a country. You get to change how you live in Australia. That is a powerful message."
"Phase four" is Australia returning to normal: The border opens and domestic restrictions end. There will be testing for unvaccinated travellers but no quarantine if negative.
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