Australia's former deputy chief medical officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, has called on Australia to prepare for the return of Covid-19 cases as the country gradually re-opens its borders.
The infectious disease expert made the bold claim that Australians could not continue to live in a pandemic "eliminationist bunker" and said full eradication of the virus was a "false idol", as reported by Fairfax.
"It is clear we will not have our borders closed indefinitely," he said speaking at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeon's annual scientific meeting.
"We will not have quarantine stations in perpetuity while we aim for the false idol of eradication."
"At a point in the future when a significant majority of our community is vaccinated, there will be pressure to open our borders. We must not resist that. In fact, when the time is right, we should be leading the calls for it."
This comes as the Australian government is facing criticism for its handling of its handling of Australian citizens stuck in Covid-ravaged India. On April 27, Prime Minister Scott Morrison grounded all passenger flights between India to Australia, but later adjusted the rules to allow just one flight per week.
While the ban was lifted on May 15, nearly half of the 150 passengers on the first repatriation flight out of India were barred because of positive test results. It's understood 48 passengers tested positive for the virus and an additional 24 were black-listed after being confirmed close contacts of cases.
A vocal advocate for Australia's large-scale vaccination programme, Coatsworth said
vaccines would be Australia's best defence again potential new Covid-19 waves.
He also called on the medical profession to encourage vaccinations and denounced "activist doctors" who spread misinformation about vaccines.
"We once again have a responsibility as a profession to calmly reassure the community that vaccines must be taken up when they are offered, that waiting is not a valid option either individually or for the public health and that ultimately when we allow Covid-19 back on our shores and it circulates in our community, that we are prepared and comfortable for that to happen," he said.
"I know that will make some, maybe most, in this room and online today uncomfortable."
Earlier this week, six Victorians were potentially exposed to a infectious case from an Adelaide quarantine hotel. A traveller returning to Australia from India via the Maldives tested positive after completing hotel quarantine in Adelaide. The six Victorians were also present on the level three of the Playford Hotel during the potential transmission period.
Recently, a Sydney man also sparked a return of restrictions after him and his wife were diagnosed with Covid-19. Although genome testing linked his strain with an overseas US traveller who entered hotel quarantine on April 26, health authorities remain stumped as to how he contracted the virus.
"Despite extensive investigations into the source of two locally acquired cases announced last week, NSW Health has not identified how the initial case was exposed to Covid-19," tweeted NSW Health earlier this week.
"They may have acquired the infection through brief contact with a currently unidentified person who was infectious in the community."