Big COVID travel rules announced
Australia has announced big changes to its international arrivals, no longer requiring overseas travellers to produce a negative PRC test and will instead accept a RAT result.
Current regulations require overseas travellers to return a negative PCR test taken up to three days before their flight, but from 1am on Sunday, arrivals can instead provide a negative RAT from within 24 hours of boarding.
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The change is consistent with domestic measures, where RATs have been accepted as a diagnostic tool used by some states, including Victoria and NSW, to report new daily COVID cases.
The time a person is banned from entering the country after testing positive to COVID-19 has also been cut in half, from 14 days to seven, bringing it in line with domestic isolation requirements.
But quarantine requirements upon entry remain subject to state and territory restrictions.
Qantas has already been forced to review its Perth to London route, expected to restart in late March, after WA Premier Mark McGowan backflipped on his promise to reopen the border on February 5.
More than 20,000 people scheduled to fly to Perth on Qantas and Jetstar flights alone in the first week the West Australian borders were set to reopen will also have to revise their plans.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the situation was “deeply concerning”, with the premier having previously said the scheduled February 5 reopening date would provide certainty.
Thousands of flights – making up 10 per cent of the airline’s domestic capacity – have been cancelled until the end of April.
“WA is still playing for time, despite people doing the right thing and getting vaccinated,” Mr Joyce said.
“We brought a lot of people back to work (because of that certainty). The question is what it will take for them to open. It’s very hard, as a business, to deal with this level of uncertainty.”
Mr McGowan defended his decision, saying it was to “protect our state from the worst excesses of what is going on in the eastern states”.
“What’s going on over there – with massive death rates, huge hospitalisations, massive economic dislocation, people staying home from work, kids not going to school, the army being called out – is pretty serious,” he told reporters on Friday.
“Here, we are not going through that. So what we’re trying to do is put in place the measures that will protect us… when the virus eventually has community spread here.”
The comments came on Australia’s deadliest day of the pandemic so far, with 88 virus-related fatalities reported across the country.
More than half of the deaths announced on Friday were recorded in NSW, which had 46 fatalities, a one-day record in the state.
Of the 46 fatalities, seven were from historical cases and had been determined as COVID-19 deaths following coronial investigations.
There were a further 20 deaths in Victoria, 13 in Queensland and one in Tasmania, the state’s first COVID fatality for almost two years.
Two people died with COVID-19 in the ACT, an equal high for the pandemic, along with six in South Australia.
Across the country, there were 25,168 cases in NSW, 18,167 in Victoria, 16,031 in Queensland, 3023 in South Australia, 866 in Tasmania, 826 in the ACT, 432 in the NT and 10 in WA.