Defence personnel will be the first to take part in an expanded home quarantine trial for overseas arrivals in South Australia this week, following a “very successful start” to the state government’s domestic trial.
- South Australia began trialling home quarantine in August, with interstate arrivals taking part
- It relies on facial recognition technology in a phone app designed by the state government
- Defence personnel will be the first international arrivals to trial home quarantine in South Australia
The South Australian Government launched the trial in August, when it announced that the development of the Home Quarantine SA app would allow authorities to check in on people completing their 14-day mandatory isolation.
About 50 people have participated domestically to date, with 18 of those already completing their quarantine.
The aim is to reduce reliance on medi-hotels and ease the backlog of people looking to return home from Victoria and New South Wales.
The trial has drawn criticism from both Australian and international commentators and civil libertarians, who described it as “Orwellian” for its reliance on facial recognition technology.
But Premier Steven Marshall today said the “innovative” app had received positive feedback from trial participants.
“What we learn from the domestic and international Home Quarantine South Australian trials could help the entire nation to safely repatriate more Australians coming home from overseas,” he said.
Defence personnel first to return
About 90 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel — all of whom are returning from what the government described as “lower-risk” countries — will be involved in the first international traveller trial.
Participants were pre-selected and are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
They also have to have a “suitable” home available, one that is self-contained and does not have shared facilities, such as corridors or lifts.
Upon their arrival in South Australia, they will travel in their own cars from the Royal Australian Air Force base to their homes, with SA Police (SAPOL) escorts.
Other rules for the arrivals include providing negative test results before their flight departs for Australia and testing again when they land, as well as on days 3, 5, 7, 9 and 13 in quarantine.
The Home Quarantine SA app will undertake random location check-ins using live facial verification three times a day, while SAPOL will conduct at least one random physical check-in on each participant between 8:00pm and 8:00am nightly during the trial period.
South Australian Health Minister Stephen Wade said the strict measures in place should help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering the community.
“Throughout the pandemic, quarantine has been one of our most important forms of defence from the virus and, as we further increase vaccination rates, it is hoped that expanding international quarantine to home isolation will become more prevalent.
“I want to thank the ADF and the participants of the pilot for their role in helping us trial a safe, sustainable and cost-effective alternative to medi-hotel quarantine.”
App designed to ‘provide support’ to users, authorities say
SA Health will review the trial before considering opportunities to extend the pilot to other cohorts.
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Emily Kirkpatrick said the app is a “one-stop shop” for users during their quarantine, sharing current public health information with them.
“While the app will importantly monitor compliance, it’s been designed to provide essential support and resources to its users,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.
“The app will include handy reminders of the users’ testing schedule and expected quarantine completion date, with users receiving an end of quarantine certificate via the app once they’ve received a negative day 14 test.
“If the trial is successful, the app could add another solution to safely quarantine returning Australians.”
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