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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Australia Ditches Pre-Departure COVID-19 Tests For International Travellers

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According to Health Minister Greg Hunt, international visitors would no longer be required to undergo a pre-departure COVID-19 test before entering Australia. The new border restrictions will go into effect on April 17th.

On Friday, the minister unveiled Australia’s winter pandemic strategy, which includes suggestions to provide an additional COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to the aged and vulnerable.

Hunt announced proposals for a reform of pandemic border laws at a news conference on Friday with Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, which will make it considerably easier and cheaper for people to enter Australia from overseas.

The federal Department of Health required travellers to obtain a negative RT-PCR test within three days of departure when Australia first opened its borders after nearly two years of severe restrictions.

This restriction was lifted in January, allowing travelers to perform significantly cheaper and faster rapid antigen tests within 24 hours of departure. Exemptions were made even back then for travelers traveling from countries where access to testing was judged insufficient.

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

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

Hunt discussed the modification with Kelly, and both Qantas and Virgin Australia were notified before the final decision was made.

A growing number of countries, particularly in Europe, have made similar judgments. Meanwhile, Singapore is easing border restrictions at the end of this month, although air travelers will still be subjected to pre-departure tests.

A group of top executives from major U.S. airlines wrote to President Joe Biden earlier this week, requesting that the administration eliminate pre-departure testing requirements for passengers. American, Delta, and United Airlines have also petitioned the White House to repeal the “outdated” federal face mask requirement.

Australia’s own mask ban for air travelers is unlikely to be repealed anytime soon, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt.

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