The government is looking at overseas coronavirus vaccination and hospitalisation data in a bid to decide when international travel will re-open, as thousands of Australians still wait on increased hotel quarantine capacity.
Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Phil Gaetjens has told a Senate committee a taskforce is looking at whether a "lower risk setting" could be used once the vaccine rollout is further progressed across the country.
Almost 84,000 vaccine doses have been administered so far in Australia, with the government confident it will reach 100,000 doses by the end of the week.
According to Mr Gaetjens, who is leading the taskforce that includes his counterparts across the states and territories, says it will look at the vaccine rollout, whether there is community transmission in Australia, case loads in hospitals and ask "how can we most effectively for the benefit of the country, recognising the risk settings, of course, how can we open up as quickly as we can to actually get Australia back running wherever possible".
He pointed to data from the United Kingdom, where the rate of hospitalisation from coronavirus is dropping as the country powers on with its vaccine rollout. Combined with epidemiological modelling, that data was being used by the taskforce to advise national cabinet on a "new risk matrix".
"We would like to open them as quickly as we can within a decent risk rating," Mr Gaetjens said on international borders.
Nationals senator Perin Davey, who is based in Deniliquin near the NSW-Victoria border, said there was major anxiety about the prospect of snap travel restrictions.
Mr Gaetjens said his work was about providing data to show measures that had been used previously may not be necessary.
Mr Gaetjens said despite the slow start to Australia's vaccine rollout, he believed the country was still on track to have all Australians fully vaccinated against coronavirus by the end of October.
Committee co-chair James Paterson pointed out Mr Gaetjens' counterparts across the states and territories, bosses of the departments of premier and cabinet, had all declined invitations to appear at the committee.
The number of Australians stranded overseas is sitting stubbornly just below 40,000, with officials confirming the latest figure is 39,142, of which 5159 are considered vulnerable.
While the overall figure has stayed at the same level for months, more than 20,000 Australians have returned from overseas since September 23 last year.
More than 1700 Australians have returned on government repatriation flights since January, officials said.
Of the 20 flights promised by the Prime Minister in January in response to the states tightening caps on hotel quarantine, nine have so far landed in Australia, most from the United Kingdom.
Deputy Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet Alison Frame explained the planned boost to capacity at the government-run Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory couldn't start until the end of the cyclone season in the territory.
Ms Frame said the federal government was in talks with the ACT government about what more it could do in terms of taking repatriation flights.
- With AAP
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