Health minister defends contradicting chief medical officer’s advice, as China restarts travel

Home Politics Health minister defends contradicting chief medical officer’s advice, as China restarts travel
Health minister defends contradicting chief medical officer’s advice, as China restarts travel

The health minister has defended his decision to impose pre-departure COVID tests on people travelling from China, despite the government’s chief health advisor recommending against it.

Mark Butler said the government had implemented the recommendations of Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly, but had also decided to follow several other countries in requiring additional testing for travellers from China.

China is facing a wave of COVID infections as it abandons its zero-COVID policy and reopens international travel, but has also received criticism for a lack of detail over the scale of infections in the country.

Mr Butler said in light of the lack of transparency, the “modest” imposition that requires travellers to take a PCR test or supervised rapid antigen test within 48 hours of their flight was a reasonable requirement.

He said Border Force had not identified any issues with compliance as the first flights arrived this morning.

“We want these measures to be temporary, they are modest measures, and as you see with flights arriving today, they are not a barrier to travel,” Mr Butler said.

Mr Butler noted that in the past 24 hours the European Commission had encouraged EU countries to follow suit, and that Australia was in step with the United States, the United Kingdom and several Asia-Pacific countries in requiring pre-flight testing.

“Pretty much every country to which we would usually compare ourselves was putting in place these measures in light of the World Health Organisation advice that was being released … that these were understandable measures,” he said.

Mr Butler said the government was acting our of an abundance of caution to a fast growing COVID wave in the world’s largest country, with “very little information on the ground”.

“I do make the point that to travel to China you need to do a pre-departure test as well.”

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