Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly has defended the nation’s quarantine system despite a number of coronavirus cases leaking into the community.
The nation recorded no new locally-acquired cases on Tuesday, which Professor Kelly said was “good news”.
However, he moved to allay concerns about hotel quarantine after medi-hotel workers and a returned traveller, who had completed 14 days quarantine, tested positive.
“We have a very good system,” Prof Kelly said.
“We have had over 211,000 people that have come back to Australia since we introduced the hotel quarantine system in March last year.
“Thousands of cases of COVID and hotel quarantine but very few that have leaked.”
But he did say the system could be improved and that Australia’s expert medical panel had been given the task of reviewing how people were transported to quarantine hotels as well as the systems and the safety of the facilities.
“As of this week, NSW has developed a post quarantine check-up including a day 16 test,” Prof Kelly said, adding the proposal would be considered by the expert medical panel later this week.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week reiterated that no major changes would be made to Australia’s hotel quarantine system, despite calls to move it to regional areas or offshore detention centres.
But Prof Kelly said experts learnt a lot from first housing people returning from Wuhan on Christmas Island, such as the ability to get people with existing conditions to hospital if needed.
As of Friday, 87 samples of the highly infectious UK strain and 18 samples of the South African variant had been detected in Australia.
Meanwhile, Australia is expected to get its first batches of the Pfizer vaccine in coming weeks.
Prof Kelly said the vaccine rollout was on track to begin by the end of this month.
“The contract we have with Pfizer is that we will have now 20 million doses between now and the end of the year,” he said.
“There will be a weekly delivery … assuming no disruption to supply.”
The Therapeutic Goods Administration is also expected to give the AstraZeneca vaccine the green light this month.
Prof Kelly condemned reports about its effectiveness in relation to the South African variant, saying people were cherry picking information.
“There’s no evidence anywhere in the world that AstraZeneca effectiveness against severe infection is affected by any of these variants of concern,” he said.
“(It is a) very good vaccine, very safe, and once it goes through those processes of safety, quality and efficacy, we will be able to look to rollout that vaccine as well.”