Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has refused to change her mind about charging interstate travellers $145 for a Covid test – as she comes under fire for the policy at a press conference.
The Queensland government had been criticised for insisting on the need for a Covid test from a private pathology clinic within 72 hours of arriving in the state when it fully re-opens on December 17.
A family of five will face a bill of $725, for example, in order to meet the requirement upon entering the state for holidays.
At a Covid update on Monday, Ms Palaszczuk was quizzed by reporters about the expense of the PCR test as well as loopholes on where people undertake the test.
‘We make no apologies for keeping Queenslanders safe, it’s the same as other states,’ Ms Palaszczuk said.
The requirement for the test is expected to remain in place until Queensland reaches 90 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated. That threshold is expected to be reached in early January.
‘We make no apologies for keeping Queenslanders safe, it’s the same as other states,’ Ms Palaszczuk said in defence of the need for an expensive PCR test before entering the state on December 17
Ms Palaszczuk become impatient when it was pointed out the state’s own road map states a ‘TGA-approved test’ – such as a cheaper rapid antigen test – would be enough to be able toc ross the border.
Ms Palaszczuk said the policy was no different to the one insisted on by Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia for those entering from Covid hotspots.
Ms Palaszczuk was asked why a Queenslander would be able to get a PCR test in Queensland, travel to NSW for 72 hours, then return to Queensland using the same test result.
Queensland Police have said they will not check where PCR tests were done.
‘There will be random checks,’ Ms Palaszczuk responded.
‘We’re hoping that people do the right thing… honestly we are in a unique situation here in Queensland,’ she said. ‘We’ve had zero cases for many, many days now, we’re getting vaccination rates up
‘Queenslanders want to be kept safe and this is a measure that is part of our plan and the plan is there for everyone to see.’
Travellers arrive in Brisbane from Sydney at Brisbane Airport – the state is due to re-open to interstate visitors arriving by air and road from December 17, but the date might be brought forward if the 80 per cent full vaccination threshold is reached a week earlier
Ms Palaszczuk then insisted she’d answered the question when it was asked again.
‘There are thousands of cases in NSW and Victoria, I’m trying to protect people in Queensland. I’ve announced our plan and the plan is staying.’
Ms Palaszczuk said she would look into exceptions for border residents doing day trips into the state but did not expect the policy to change ‘at this stage’.
Acting chief health officer Peter Aitken appeared to admit the loophole in the policy in a follow-up answer.
‘That’s a loophole we will look at, it’s certainly not the intent, the intent is for people to have the test in the area that they’ve been exposed to… that’s what we want Queenslanders do and that’s what I think Queenslanders will do,’ Dr Aitken said.
‘Queenslanders want to be kept safe and this is a measure that is part of our plan and the plan is there for everyone to see,’ Ms Palaszczuk said of the need for a PCR test for those entering the state from Covid hotspots from December 17
No new cases were announced in the state on Monday, with four active cases.
Ms Palaszczuk announced that 80.55 per cent of Queenslanders had now received a first dose of a Covid vaccine, while 73.34 per cent were now fully vaccinated.
On the Gold Coast, where Ms Palsazczuk held the press conference, 81.3 per cent had received a first dose and 69.8 per cent, two doses.
Queensland is expected to reach the 80 per cent double dose threshold a week earlier than the announced December 17 re-opening date, in which case Ms Palaszczuk has indicated the plan will be moved forward.
A family of five will face a bill of $725, for example, in order to meet the requirement that each had has a PCR test upon entering the state for holidays
‘Queensland currently has four active cases – we want to identify every case and not miss 30 per cent, so we will continue to use PCR tests at this stage,’ Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Peter Aitken said on Sunday
Ms Palaszczuk also announced Gold Coast physician Dr John Gerrard would become the state’s new chief health officer in mid-December, replacing Dr Jeanette Young who become Queensland Governor.
Dr Gerrard is currently director of Infectious Diseases at Gold Coast University Hospital and was the first in Queensland to treat a Covid patient.
‘What we have seen in Queensland is quite extraordinary,’ Dr Gerrard said.
‘We have been able to keep Covid-19 out of Queensland for two years.
‘This is something that has not been achieved anywhere else in the world.’
Yesterday Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the Federal government should cover the cost of the PCR pathology tests through Medicare.
She and Dr Aitken also rejected the use of the rapid antigen test (RAT) in place of the PCR test, even though it now has TGA approval.
‘We don’t want to swap tests just because one might be cheaper,’ Ms D’Ath said.
Dr Aitken said that even if the cheaper RAT was used and a new infection detected, a PCR test would then be required to confirm.
‘Queensland currently has four active cases – we want to identify every case and not miss 30 per cent, so we will continue to use PCR tests at this stage,’ Dr Aitken said.
‘[With rapid antigen tests] you miss the early stages of the disease and the later stages of disease, which means you don’t detect Covid in people until they are much further into disease.’