Pre-flight COVID test required for all flights to Australia

All travellers headed to Australia will soon need to show a negative result for a pre-flight PCR test.

By David Flynn, January 8 2021
Pre-flight COVID test required for all flights to Australia

Australia will join the growing list of countries requiring that passengers arriving on international flights undergo a COVID-19 test before boarding the flight.

The move is one of several sparked by the spread of new mutated strains of the virus which are proving 70% more contagious.

"This strain is likely to become in the very near future the dominant strain globally, as it already is in the UK," suggested Prime Minister Scott Morrison in announcing a raft of new measures "to tighten the end-to-end process of approved international arrivals within Australia."

"Travellers to Australia must return a negative COVID-19 test result prior to departure to Australia."

PCR tests, not rapid tests

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the test was "a real-time PCR test" rather than a rapid test, and passengers would be required to show the results of that test before boarding their flight.

A positive result would not only bar that passenger from the flight but also prevent other members of their household from travel, due to the highly infectious nature of the new strains.

"This is the new rule now for everyone coming in," Kelly said. "if you're positive, you and your household contacts will be denied uplift."

Kelly added that this was already happening with the Government-underwritten repatriation flights operated by Qantas, where travellers must show a negative test result, with 15 people denied boarding on the most recent flight.

However, Kelly allowed that pre-flight testing wasn't foolproof, given the exposure gap between when a passenger might take their test – up to 72 hours before their flight – and when they arrive at the airport.

"If it's negative, that does not prove the next day, or even on the plane, they might become infectious," he said.

Instead, the testing added "another layer" to the "rings of containment that we've always had", which will continue to include 14-day quarantine paid for by travellers.

Given that pre-flight testing can cost several hundreds of dollars, adding to the already-high bill for flights and quarantine, Morrison said the government's hardship fund continued to be available "to Australians who are overseas... $15.5 million has been provided to people overseas to assist them."

Also read: Australia to temporarily cut international arrivals

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 384

 A negative result would not only bar that passenger from the flight but also prevent other members of their household from travel, due to the highly infectious nature of the new strains.”


I believe you (or Prof Kelly) meant a positive result 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1262

I’m glad they are rejecting the rapid tests in favour of the PCR as it seems the therapeutic goods administration TGA has found many of the rapid tests have very high false negatives rates (around half) despite their advertising. One of them was fined for misleading advertising regarding TGA approval.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 384

@patrickk

The 1.5M rapid test kits bought by the federal government in May 2020 is probably still sitting in a warehouse somewhere not fit for purpose.

Frankly can’t blame them for trying since it’s like Tamiflu antiviral during the previous outbreak, you’ll be damned if you did or did not buy/stockpile whatever straws that was available 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1262

XWu this isn’t about those in May but about the wide range currently available many of which have failed the regulator in terms of published efficacy levels. Basically you have to deliver what you say and it seems many don’t but charge quite a bit to give you fairly useless information. They will tell you if you have the bug some of the time and people still fork out for the dodgy data.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 384

@patrickk

I must apologise for misleading you. I meant to correct my comment soon after posting but like quite a few times before, it does not include editing feature sometimes allowed within 5-10 minutes of posting.

I am aware there are a lot more variety of rapid tests on the market since May 2020; I was just remarking with irony the federal government’s own foray to use rapid test kits in which they bought and received the actual products* (rather than TGA’s approval process and post marketing checks on approved product efficacy) which may explain why Prof Kelly was so keen to clarify the expected standard so early.

After all, there are likely far more products available overseas for use as rapid test kits for COVID-19 than what TGA already approved (and getting TGA approval is not cheap for any fly-by-night manufacturer or importer)

*there were also another news article (Australian government sought to buy 500,000 Covid-19 test kits from company now under investigation) where the federal government placed an order of test kits through a local company, which the Chinese manufacturer even refused to deal with. Fortunately in this case the government didn’t pay anything yet before it’s too late. Another reason why they may not have good experience with rapid test kits.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Mar 2020

Total posts 4

Does the requirements for a covid test apply to NZ quarantine free flights from NZ

Thanks

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 247

Right now, yes, but if they set up that AU-NZ 'travel bubble' that's been talked about, probably not.

07 May 2020

Total posts 98

So if we have had the vaccine will we get exemption from having to get these tests before boarding a flight?

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 247

No, because face masks are also to stop people spreading COVID and there's still no evidence that the vaccines will stop people from becoming 'asymptomatic carriers', in other words the virus will be in their system but they won't get sick from it but could still pass it on to others. The companies behind the vaccines all admit this and say more testing will be needed to determine the efficacy of the vaccines in this regard.

07 May 2020

Total posts 98

QFPI...so carrying my Covid Vax Certificate is going to be a pointless exercise. Mask wearing, social distancing, mandatory quarantine, PCE testing  etc etc are still going to be the norm for a long time with or without a Vax Certificate. And probably by that time the Mutants will have already made my original vaccination redundant. Oh dear..!

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 247

Pfizer reports its vaccine is effective against the 'mutated strains'. I'd really stop worrying so much because there's nothing you can do about any of this right now, you certainly can't fly overseas, so I'd wait until we are closer to mid-year for vaccination to move to the mainstream of the population and see where QF flights are and vaccination certificates and apps are, and then we will all have a much better idea of how things fit together.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1262

Go Robin the purpose of the vaccine is to stop you getting really sick and occupying a hospital bed. If everyone is vaccinated as if you still have it they won’t get really sick and then I expect the restrictions will ease. This will vary according to which country you will be going to/ through/back to.

07 May 2020

Total posts 98

Patrickk...you can't vaccinate everyone. None of the current experimental vaccines that have been authorised for Emergency Use by the FDA have been tested on pregnant women or children under 16. All of those companies have specifically excluded those groups from their trials and have made mention in their trials that they cannot recommend their vaccines for those groups. So you can't just inject those groups simply to achieve your end desire.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1262

GoRobin the  Australian approval process is quite different to the emergency use by the FDA and by the time the vaccination program get to those groups in Australia you mention they may well be approved as the Australian regulators have mentioned them as a later group if necessary. The ‘if necessary’ is to do with if they are needed for these groups in terms of efficacy. That is do under 16s need vaccination against getting severe symptoms, which so far they seem not to get that much. Pregnant women become un pregnant after a time. Usually 9 months.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1262

GoRobin I’m not even sure the FDA is testing the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine as it is not made in the USA ( or approved for use there but I may be wrong) but will be the main one used in Australia as it can be manufactured here. The Australian regulators are going through thousands of pages of data as we write this blog so we will know more about who it can be used with under a full approval.

07 May 2020

Total posts 98

QFPI....Pfizer has most certainly not reported what you are saying, nor have they conducted any peer reviewed trials to even try to determine if their experimental agent will be effective against mutants. It is one thing to just be a believer, it is another to scientifically prove a belief.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 247

Pfizer has reported this last week, see https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/08/health/pfizer-vaccine-variant-strain-mutation/index.html among others reporting it. It hasn't been peer reviewed, as the article also points out, but it's a start.

07 May 2020

Total posts 98

QFPI... this is a test-tube study which hasn't even been peer reviewed. So it would be dangerous and irresponsible to say that the Pfizer vaccine will give you protection against any mutants. I read the actual report from Pfizer, and not a news clip.

07 May 2020

Total posts 98

Patrickk....I don't know about your experience with dealing with the FDA or the TGA but I do have experience having worked for a US based company seeking approvals from the TGA. Firstly, the FDA does not test products. It is up to companies to provide sufficient and compelling data to the FDA if they want their products accepted for listing. The FDA never actually approves products. It is not their role. Secondly, most Pharma companies will regurgitate the same studies they provide to the FDA and the EU when seeking authorisation from the TGA. Australia is a very small market and these companies will not spend the money to run separate and independent human trials just to satisfy demands from a minute regulator such as the TGA. The TGA understands this and generally goes along with what the FDA and EU markets accept. As far as I know, the TGA does not have a general category of use such as "EMERGENCY USE AUTHORISATION".  You need to be aware that all the experimental agents that have been given Emergency Use Authorisation by the FDA are only for Emergency Use. They.have not been given general use listing. No doubt most people do not know this and just assume that these experimental agents are fully sanctioned. Not so. Probably the reason why these experimental agents are not available yet in Australia is because the clinical data from the companies is not yet sufficient to convince the FDA and European Regulator that they are safe for general listing and distribution. But I know you are a much wiser and informed individual than me and that you have no doubt read additional trial data from these companies where they have tested their products on pregnant women and children and shown them to be safe. If not, then you should read the studies before you make wildly inaccurate statements. Happy to hear back from you if you wish to point to substantiated evidence to the contrary.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1262

GoRobin I’m not sure where I said these companies have tested their products on children or pregnant women all I said the Australian government said children if necessary and of course pregnant women get unpregnant after a time. I apologise for using the term testing when of course I should have said ‘assessing the test results’.  The reason they are not approved in Australia is there is no reason to bring their use forward given the very low case load in Australia. The prime minister and chief medical officer have said that. The thousands of pages of data is there and is being assessed. The Pfizer one is being rolled out in the next couple of weeks and the astra Zeneca one a couple of weeks later when local manufacturing comes up to speed. Australia is not a small market for CSL the local manufacturer and yes human trials are conducted in Australia for Australian vaccines and yes the TGA does batch testing of vials before roll out. Not sure what happens in the US. Not quite sure which statement was wildly inaccurate. The statement that children will be assessed for vaccination later in the roll out can be easily checked as it came from the chief medical officer. All of this can be easily sourced on Australian official health sites and media interviews.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1262

Go robin see https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-10/covid19-astrazeneca-vaccine-most-australians-will-get-paul-kelly/13045960 to see what is happening in Australia.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1262

Go Robin to save you searching here is the Australian rollout strategy with the reference to vaccinating under 18s if necessary https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2021/01/australia-s-epidemiology-and-covid-19-vaccine-roadmap-australia-s-covid-19-vaccine-national-rollout-strategy.pdf

11 Jan 2021

Total posts 1

Where do you get a “real time PCR” test?? At the airport?????

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