Greg Hunt confirms tests, masks mandated from tomorrow


Returning travellers must test negative to COVID-19 and wear a mask on their flight from tomorrow.

The measures were announced after an emergency meeting of national cabinet on January 8, but Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed they will come into effect on Friday.

Mr Hunt told reporters on Thursday he was “apologetic” about any inconveniences to travellers, but said they were necessary to neuter the threat of highly contagious new COVID-19 strains.

“We have to be ever-vigilant and responding to international events as they occur,” he said.

“These (measures) will be challenging for many people and I am apologetic that we need to put in place these restrictions.

“But those global comparisons of the success at home (to) the agonising challenge abroad, (and) the fact that we have new, more virulent strains emerging around the world, remind us of precisely why we have been able to keep Australians safe.”

Mr Hunt signed the Biosecurity Act orders on Thursday, with tests to be required within 72 hours of departure.

Aircrew are also obligated wear masks on flights, and take a COVID-19 test every seven days or on arrival in Australia.

Masks are also mandated on domestic flights and in airports, excluding children under 12.

Labor health spokesman Chris Bowen has backed the measures as “common sense”, but said they were only necessary because the government had failed to deliver a safe quarantine plan.

“We have around 40,000 stranded Australians needing to come home. (Prime Minister Scott) Morrison sat on his hands letting those numbers build, and now we’re at crisis point,” he said.

The Australian Airports Association backed the measures when they were announced, with CEO James Goodwin saying airports would continue to support the federal government during the pandemic.

“We want passengers travelling through airports to feel safe. Wearing a mask for the traveller’s own safety and the safety of others, should become second nature,” he said on January 8.

The announcement comes as national cabinet is set to discuss aviation protocols and international passenger caps on Friday.

The meeting will be the second of 2021, after an emergency meeting to discuss the mutant COVID-19 strain on January 8.

Talks on how to contain highly infectious strains will continue, as will the federal government’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

State and territory leaders will also be provided with an update on seasonal worker arrangements, as the federal government seeks to plug a labour gap in industries heavily reliant on backpackers.



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