Understanding Australia’s Four-Stage National COVID Response Plan

On 2 July, 2021, Australia’s National Cabinet agreed to formulate a four-phase National Plan, known as Australia’s ‘pathway out of the COVID-19 pandemic’. No dates have been set for the various phases, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying they were dependent on vaccination targets that are yet to be determined.

Let’s break down what you need to know about these planned phases.

Phase A: Vaccinate, prepare and pilot (the phase we’re already in)

The goal of this phase is to continue to suppress COVID-19 for the purpose of minimising community transmission. Under phase A, the international arrivals cap will be reduced by 50 per cent, to cope with the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant and “reduce pressure” on the hotel quarantine system. It is expected the reduction will be in place until at least the end of the year.

Other measures within this phase include:

  • Implementing the national vaccination plan to offer every Australian an opportunity to be vaccinated with the necessary doses of the relevant vaccine as soon as possible
  • Expanding commercial trials for limited entry of student and economic visa holders
  • Increasing Commonwealth-facilitated flights to Australia
  • Experimenting with alternative forms of quarantine like seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated travellers
  • Developing digital ways of verifying a person’s vaccination status

Phase B: Post-Vaccination Phase

Under phase B, the international arrivals cap would be restored to previous levels for unvaccinated travellers, with a separate, larger cap for vaccinated travellers. Planned measures also include allowing capped entry of student and economic visa holders subject to quarantine arrangements and availability.

Under the second phase, Mr Morrison said that lockdowns would only occur “in extreme circumstances”.

Vaccinated residents would also have eased restrictions under any lockdown or similar rules.

On Friday, Mr Morrison said we would “possibly” be at phase two in 2022.

Phase C: Consolidation Phase

The third phase would be treating COVID-19 like any other infectious disease, Mr Morrison said.

Under phase C, there would be no lockdowns, no cap on returning vaccinated travellers, and no domestic restrictions for vaccinated residents. There could also be a travel bubble with countries like Singapore.

Under phase C, “we should treat it like the flu, and that means no lockdowns,” Mr Morrison said. He also said there would be increased, though capped, entries for international students.

Phase D: Final Phase (‘back to normal’)

Mr Morrison described the final phase of the plan as being “back to normal”, but certain management measures will still be in place.

For example, in his description of potential changes, he said only vaccinated people may be exempted from quarantine, and also described testing of arrivals into the country.

But, as with every previous stage, movement to phase D would be dependent on people in Australia choosing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

More information regarding these phases is expected following the next National Cabinet meeting on 9 July 2021. For details regarding the announcemnt on 2 July, click here.