Visa Crunch

Australia Scraps Pre-Departure COVID-19 Test For International Travellers

The federal government is scrapping a requirement that international visitors give a negative COVID-19 test before flying to Australia.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government will no longer make it a requirement for visitors to verify they had tested negative for the virus before coming here. The new policy will take effect on April 17.

“Given that the vaccination requirements remain and the masking requirements, the medical advice is that [the test] would no longer be required,” Mr Hunt said.

“Particularly as there are some challenges in some jurisdictions in having access to those tests or proving those tests.”

Mr Hunt stated that he spoke with the CEOs of both Qantas and Virgin Australia.

“But we also took the medical advice of the Chief Medical Officer,” he said. “That was the view, that we progressively take away those items which are no longer required.”

Mr Hunt will not extend the orders issued under the Biosecurity Act, which permitted the government to make the test a prerequisite for entrance into Australia. He stated that additional emergency measures, such as cruise ship limits and price-gouging laws for fast antigen tests, would also expire on April 17.

The pre-departure testing were implemented at the beginning of the year in an effort to prevent as many COVID cases from arriving in Australia as possible. The government used to need a negative PCR test result within three days of travel, but that was amended to a RAT late last year. Other countries, notably those in Europe, have begun to abandon pre-flight tests as well.

Travelers will still be required to produce confirmation of receiving at least two doses of a TGA-approved Covid vaccination, and mask restrictions will remain in effect on both domestic and international flights.

Mandatory pre-departure testing, limits on outward travel for unvaccinated Australians, restrictions on cruise ships, and anti-price gouging for quick antigen tests were all included in the emergency biosecurity authorities. It had been extended eight times and was due to expire on April 17.

Chief medical officer Paul Kelly stated that he could no longer suggest that the powers be renewed “just in case,” but indicated that this could change in the future.

“It needs to be a proportionate measure, effective, required, and it should only persist as long as it is necessary,” Professor Kelly said on Friday. “We can’t keep an emergency on standby just in case.” That isn’t something we can accomplish.

“Of course, we can always revisit that in the future, but for the time being, it’s time to move on.”

The revisions were published alongside new advice that vulnerable Australians, such as those over 65 and immunocompromised, would be advised to obtain an additional “winter dosage” of the Covid vaccine.

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