Passengers on all domestic flights will have to wear a face mask and international arrivals will be subject to pre-flight testing as Australia tightens its health protocols to stamp out the latest wave of infections and guard against new variants of COVID-19.
The moves follow heightened concerns over emerging mutated strains of COVID-19 which are far more transmissible than their parent.
Two new coronavirus strains recently detected in the UK and South Africa have now found their way to Australia and been reported among travellers in hotel quarantine in Sydney and Brisbane.
"For domestic travel, mask wearing will be mandatory on all domestic flights for all persons in Australia, excluding children 12 and under, and those with other accepted exemptions," Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed after today's National Cabinet meeting.
"As an additional preventative measure to prevent spread, mask wearing will be mandatory in all domestic airports within Australia."
"These measures, over the course of the next week, and the compliance arrangements that sit around that, will be put in place by the Commonwealth and the state governments."
Masks compulsory on all domestic flights
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia already distribute face masks prior to boarding and have them available onboard.
However, wearing those masks has to date been "strongly encouraged" rather than compulsory, with the exception of flights to, from and within Victoria and New South Wales following outbreaks in those states.
That's likely to change as early as this weekend. Exceptions will be made for travellers with a relevant medical condition as well as children under 12, although parents will be encouraged to have their youngsters mask up.
All passengers are required to follow any "reasonable directions" of a crew member under the airlines' standard 'conditions of carriage'.
Refusal to do so, which in this case means wearing a mask, will see that passenger removed from the flight and potentially put on a 'no fly' list banning them from the airline, in addition to whatever other state or federal government penalties may apply.
Face masks at airport lounges
Morrison said that under the new rules, "all individuals within Australian airport environments must wear masks."
This appears to clarify the issue of wearing masks at airport lounges, which to date have varied from state to state because airlines consider their lounges as hospitality venues similar to cafes and bars, which fall under state regulations.
In NSW, the staff at such facilities are required to wear a mask, but not customers.
But in Victoria it's mandatory to wear a face mask in any public indoor setting "except while eating or drinking".
In addition to revising their food and drink service along 'COVID-safe' lines, Qantas and Virgin Australia have reconfigured their airport lounges to comply with state regulations regarding capacity.