24 Jan 2022 No more PCRs: International arrivals to Australia to use RAT tests from Sunday
Fantastic news for travellers and the industry. Australia will accept a negative rapid antigen test from international arrivals within 24-hours of the flight’s departure, scrapping the requirement for a PCR test.
The changes will come into effect from 1 am on Sunday in a move that is consistent with domestic measures that accept RATs as a diagnostic tool.
Previously, travellers had to take a PCR test at their own expense overseas and return a negative result within 72-hours of getting on the plane to fly to Australia.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the major changes in a joint statement with Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews on Friday night.
“While PCR tests remain the gold standard test, a RAT within 24 hours is an acceptable indicator of whether a traveller has Covid-19 before flying to Australia,” the joint statement said.
Mr Hunt said the pre-departure testing requirement would continue to be reviewed regularly.
“Travellers to Australia must still wear a mask during their flight and follow the directions of state and territory governments regarding quarantine and on-arrival testing,” he said.
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.
The changes were announced a day after WA Premier Mark McGowan backed down on a promise to reopen the state to the rest of the country from February 5.
Mr McGowan said WA reopening as planned would be “reckless and irresponsible” given the large number of cases in the eastern states.
No new date has been set for when the state may relax its hardline border measures, with Mr McGowan indicating more time was needed to roll out booster shots and vaccines for children.
Speaking today about the latest chapter in the WA border saga, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said, “The border situation in WA is deeply concerning. February 5 was supposedly ‘locked in’ to give certainty. Tens of thousands of people booked travel on that basis and we brought a lot of our people back to work on that basis. Removing that certainty with no new timeline for when the border will reopen is a real blow not just for travel but for Australia as a whole.
“Other states have forged ahead despite the challenges that Omicron presented because they know this virus isn’t going away. The rest of the country is focused on getting through this but WA is still playing for time, despite people doing the right thing and getting vaccinated. 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,” he said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said while he could understand the decision made by the west, more certainty was needed for residents from now on.
“(West Australians) would be asking, ‘If not now, when?’” Mr Frydenberg told the Seven Network on Friday.
“This is a decision that the Western Australian government themselves have taken, and one for them to explain, but obviously people in WA would be disappointed with the decision.”