Medical director Professor Paul Kelly said Australian authorities are closely watching the new strain, which is believed to be more transmissible than what has currently been tested here.
“This variant is not more serious, it does not cause more serious disease. There is no increase in hospitalization and no increase in mortality at 28 days,” said Professor Kelly.
“So these are positive signs. It seems like it’s more transmittable, but not that much, and I’d say our two weeks of quarantine with someone in their own hotel room means it doesn’t really matter if that’s more transmittable or not.”
Professor Kelly said the launch of a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia was “on target” but had not yet received regulatory approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
“There are no approvals yet, there are still no full approvals anywhere in the world for any COVID vaccine,” said Professor Kelly.
“We will do our full evaluation. Our Therapeutic Products Administration is on it.
“They will be quick, but they will be thorough, and we have to maintain that trust and people have to have confidence in that regulatory approach here in Australia, particularly when it comes to the safety, but also the quality of these new vaccines.”
Professor Kelly said that the idea of a vaccine passport, where immunized travelers can skip the quarantine upon entering Australia, is currently being discussed but is not operational.
“There is no change. Whether people have been vaccinated or not, they will have 14 days of quarantine for now,” said Professor Kelly.
“We have some time to consider these issues, but for now, vaccination will not be an alternative to the 14-day quarantine, and those decisions also need to be carefully considered over the next several months about how it will be handled.”