Australians still want returning international travellers locked up in hotel quarantine and remain divided over whether ankle security trackers represent an alternative.
Underlining fears that returning travellers remain the biggest threat to Australia’s claim to remain largely COVID-free, new research has found the vast majority of voters – a stunning 90.2 per cent – want returning travellers treated as if they have COVID until they prove otherwise.
The research, prepared by the Redbridge group and obtained exclusively by news.com.au, involved a sample size of 2000 voters across the country.
Just 5 per cent of voters don’t agree that returning travellers should be treated as if they have COVID until testing negative and 5 per cent are unsure.
The threat of travellers arriving home carrying COVID-19 has been underlined again in Western Australia, where Perth has been plunged into a five-day lockdown after confirmation a security guard contracted the mutant UK strain of the virus from a hotel guest.
Support for the tough measures is highest among older Australians most at risk from dying from the virus, according to Redbridge rising from 86 per cent of 18 to 29 year olds to 92 per cent of over-50s.
But when asked whether they support home quarantine alternatives including giving overseas travellers the option of a fitted tracking device, voters are divided.
Nearly half of voters – 49.6 per cent – are open to the idea but 39.3 per cent oppose the concept and another 11 per cent are unsure.
Once again, support for alternatives is higher among younger Australians and lower among cautious seniors.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has issued a chilling warning even with the COVID-19 vaccine that there must be “no let up” in international border controls and quarantine over the coming year.
“Even with the roll out of the vaccine, there can be no let-up in the three vital suppression measures that served Australia well in 2020 and must be the focus of continuous improvement in 2021,’’ Mr Morrison said.
“Our international border restrictions and robust quarantine system. Our high rates of testing, our contact tracing systems and our management of outbreaks in hot spots.
“And physical distancing and sound hygiene practices. In 2021, these suppression measures, which must be exercised in a balanced way to protect jobs and livelihoods, will be complemented by the COVID-19 vaccines.”
There is also strong support for state premiers slamming shut borders in the event of an outbreak according to the Redbridge research with 70 per cent of voters backing the decision to ban people from hot spots.
However, there’s far stronger support in some states compared with others. Support for border closures is highest in Queensland where 75 per cent support border closures.
In NSW, just 56 per cent support other states shutting the border. In Victoria, support is running at 71 per cent.
Support for border closures is also slightly higher among women than men.
In a speech to the national press club on Monday, Mr Morrison said the government had “wisely planned for the unexpected” when it comes to the vaccine rollout.
The aim remains to get the majority of the population vaccinated by October 2021, commencing in just a few weeks’ time.
However, he accepts that European export controls could cause delays.
“That is why we took out the insurance of securing our own sovereign supply of vaccines, by investing in COVID-19 vaccine production here in Australia,’’ he said.
“Australia is one of a small number of countries to have sovereign vaccine manufacturing capacity. Subject to TGA approval, we expect to be able to supply COVID-19 vaccines to the entire Australian population through CSL’s manufacturing plant in Melbourne.”
But the Prime Minister warned the ongoing threat of COVID-19 wasn’t going away.
“The pandemic is still raging. It is not petering out. The virus has not gone anywhere. Indeed, it is morphing into new and more virulent strains,’’ he said.
“So we must remain vigilant.”