Australia will no longer require international travellers to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test before entering the country according to Health Minister Greg Hunt. The relaxed border restrictions are set to take effect from April 17.
On Friday, the minister set out Australia’s winter plan for dealing with the pandemic including recommendations to offer elderly and vulnerable people an additional COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.
Speaking alongside Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly at a news conference on Friday, Hunt also set out plans for an overhaul of pandemic border rules which will make it much easier and cheaper for people to enter Australia from overseas.
When Australia first opened its borders after nearly two years of strict restrictions, the federal Department of Health required travellers to have a negative RT-PCR test taken within three days of departure.
In January, however, that requirement was eased to allow travellers to take much cheaper and quicker rapid antigen tests within 24 hours of departure. Even then, exemptions were made for travellers arriving from certain countries where access to testing wasn’t deemed to be reliable enough.
“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 consulted with Kelly on the change and both Qantas and Virgin Australia were informed prior to the final decision being signed off.
The move follows similar decisions made by a growing list of countries, particularly in Europe. Meanwhile, Singapore is set to ease border restrictions at the end of this month but pre-departure tests will still be required for travellers arriving by air.
Earlier this week, chief executives from a slew of major U.S. airlines wrote to President Joe Biden asking the administration to drop pre-departure testing rules for travellers. Airlines including American, Delta and United Airlines also asked the White House to ditch the “outdated” federal face mask mandate.
Health Minister Greg Hunt did not suggest Australia would drop its own mask mandate for air travellers anytime soon.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.