Pre-flight testing for returning Aussies

Tim Dornin and Paul Osborne
·2-min read

Pre-flight testing of returning Australians will be introduced to help prevent the spread of the more transmissible variant of COVID-19 identified in the United Kingdom.

The measure was adopted at a meeting of the national cabinet on Friday.

Masks will also become mandatory on all domestic and international flights.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all travellers would be required to return a negative COVID-19 test result prior to departure to Australia.

There will be exemptions in extenuating circumstances, such as seasonal workers from low-risk countries where there is limited access to testing but they will be subject to "tailored" checks.

Passengers will be required to wear masks throughout international flights, with crew also wearing masks and other personal protective equipment where appropriate.

Any Australians in an international or domestic airport will need to wear a mask.

International air crew must undergo a COVID-19 test in Australia every seven days or on arrival and will need to quarantine in dedicated quarantine facilities between international flights or for 14 days.

National cabinet also agreed that for domestic travel, mask wearing will be mandatory on all domestic flights excluding children under 12.

As well the leaders settled on a reduction in international arrivals until February 15.

In NSW, Western Australia and Queensland arrivals will reduce by 50 per cent but in Victoria and SA there will be no change.

The ACT, Northern Territory and Tasmania will continue their bespoke arrangements.

Government-chartered flights will continue, with one arriving next week.

"With our chartered flights, we have total control of who gets on the plane," Mr Morrison said.

"So we can ensure that it is vulnerable people who get on those flights ... or a family member of that vulnerable person."

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the testing regime was another ring of containment but was not foolproof.

Professor Kelly said he was aware of 15 people who tested positive being denied access to a recent government charter flight.

Mr Morrison said the lower caps would have consequences in terms of Australian trade and business and engagement with the rest of the world.

"There are no consequence-free decisions here and so it is about managing the risk as appropriately and as proportionately as possible," he said.

National cabinet discussed the possibility of targeting bans on travel from specific countries but rejected it.

"The idea that you can somehow narrow-stream your response here and mitigate the risk just dealing with one channel into Australia is not true," Mr Morrison said.