New Covid rules introduced for Australian travellers

Mask wearing will now be mandatory in all Australian airports and on domestic flights to stop the spread of Covid-19 amid the presence of a mutant strain.

It comes as mandatory pre-flight testing for Covid-19 for returning Australians was approved by the national cabinet on Friday.

Pre-flight testing of returning Australians will be introduced to help prevent the spread of the more transmissible variant of coronavirus identified in the United Kingdom.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference following a national cabinet meeting, at Parliament House in Canberra.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said mask wearing will now be mandatory on all domestic flights. Source: AAP

The strain has already been found in South East Queensland and has forced Greater Brisbane into a three-day lockdown.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Friday this virus “writes its own rules”.

“Travellers to Australia must return a negative Covid-19 test result prior to departure to Australia,” Mr Morrison said.

People wearing face masks are seen in the baggage collection area after arriving on Virgin Australia flight VA318 from Brisbane at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne.
Passengers arrive from Brisbane at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne on Friday. Source: AAP

The prime minister explained mask wearing will now be mandatory on all domestic flights and in Australian airports.

“Mask wearing will be mandatory on all domestic flights for all persons in Australia, excluding children 12 and under, and those with other accepted exemptions, as an additional preventative measure to prevent spread, mask wearing will be mandatory in all domestic airports within Australia,” the PM said.

“These measures, over the course of the next week, and the compliance arrangements that sit around that, will be put in place by the Commonwealth and the state governments.”

Changes to international caps

Mr Morrison said New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland will have their returning weekly traveller caps halved until February 15.

WA will now take 512, Queensland 500 and NSW 1500.

“In the smaller jurisdictions - the ACT, the Northern Territory, Tasmania - they are very bespoke arrangements in relation to those airports, and they'll be settled between the Commonwealth and those jurisdictions specifically,” the PM said.

“In the Northern Territory, in particular, they are the primary entry point, and will be the sole entry point for chartered flights that the Commonwealth has put in place.

“Those chartered flights will continue over the course – there was one arriving next week – because with our chartered flights, we have total control of who gets on the plane.”

Healthcare workers are seen attending to people at a drive through Covid19 testing facility at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds.
People undergo testing at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds. Source: AAP

Daily testing for quarantine workers

The national cabinet agreed quarantine workers now need to receive daily coronavirus testing.

Mr Morrison said the definition of a quarantine worker is up to the states but encouraged them to take a “broad definition” to include transport workers and medical staff.

What happens if the mutant strain spreads in Australia?

The mutant strain, which makes Covid-19 even more infectious, has already ripped through the UK where it’s estimated one in 50 people now have coronavirus.

Mr Morrison was asked whether other states face lockdowns should the mutant strain present itself in the community to which he replied, “we’ll see”.

“I can't tell you what we don't know,” the PM said.

“No one can. To lock in those positions, a you've outlined, I think, would be imprudent.

“We don't want to learn the hard way on this.

“That's why I think the decision of the Queensland Premier today, in this case, has been very wise and prudent. I think we're going to learn a lot in the next three to five days.”

with AAP

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