Stranded Australians could be home in time for Christmas, if a NSW home-quarantine pilot program, set to begin within weeks, proves successful.
The test run, announced by the state government on Friday, involves 175 vaccinated people quarantining at home for seven days, monitored by geolocation and facial-recognition technology.
If successful, it is expected the NSW government would move to rapidly scale-up the program to allow many more international arrivals.
Hotel quarantine arrangements would remain for unvaccinated people under the plan.
There are more than 40,000 Australians stranded overseas due to border closures, and Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Friday she hoped many of them could be home for Christmas.
The Business Council of Australia has welcomed the plan, saying the nation needs to get rid of bottlenecks, such as hotel quarantine, that stop Australians returning home and prevent skilled workers entering the country.
“We urge all state and territory leaders to follow the NSW example, put the nation first and start planning to re-join the rest of the world,” BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said in a statement.
NSW passed another milestone on Friday, with half of the state’s population now fully vaccinated.
But several regional areas will spend this weekend back in lockdown.
The Glen Innes Severn council area, inland from Coffs Harbour, will be under a week-long lockdown from Saturday after a COVID-19 case was detected there.
As a result, Queensland has reinstated border restrictions with the region.
The Hilltops local government area in the state’s south, which encompasses the town of Young, is also under seven-day restrictions.
Albury and Lismore had been sent back into a week-long lockdown on Thursday.
There are 1245 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 228 patients in intensive care and 112 on ventilators.