Covid Queensland: Australians will have to pay $145 to enter state when the border opens in December
Visitors to Queensland will have to pay $145 for a PCR test to prove they are Covid-free once borders re-open – with Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government refusing to allow use of the far cheaper – and fully approved – rapid antigen tests.
Queensland will reopen for tourists once 80 per cent of its vaccine-eligible residents are double-jabbed – which could be as early as December 6.
But Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said inbound travellers will have to fork out for the gold-standard PCR Covid test from a private clinic, with costs starting from $145 per person.
The insistence on the PCR tests – which will be required for anyone over 16 – comes despite Queensland’s Covid roadmap stating tests approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration – such as the rapid antigen tests – would be sufficient.
There are a dozen different brands of rapid antigen tests – priced $7 to $20 – already TGA-approved and available in chemists.
‘We don’t want to swap tests just because one might be cheaper,’ Ms D’Ath said.
While foreign visitors to Australia must get a PCR test to enter the country, Queensland is imposing the cost on fellow citizens whereas other ‘open’ states like NSW and Victoria do not.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (pictured) will open Queensland’s borders in mid-December once 80 per cent of the state’s population is fully-vaccinated
Acting chief health officer Peter Aitken said PCR tests should be used in conjunction with rapid tests – which are more effective when there was a higher number of Covid-19 cases in the community.
‘To put it roughly, rapid antigen tests are about 70 per cent as effective as PCR,’ Dr Aitken said.
‘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.’
‘[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.’
Ms D’Ath said the federal government should look at subsidising costs for the mandatory swabs through Medicare – putting further impost on non-Queenslanders to pay for the testing through taxes.
But opposition Leader David Crisafulli said the state government should foot the bill because it is their policy.
Anyone who enters the state when the borders open will need to pay $145 for a PCR Covid-19 test
‘The state government should stop passing the buck and help get Queenslanders home – that test could be done by the state and paid for by the state,’ he said on Sunday.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s office also slammed Ms D’Ath’s suggestion, pointing out that Queensland had agreed to split the cost of Covid testing for people without symptoms since early in the pandemic.
‘The Commonwealth has spent over $1.87 billion on pathology testing throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we would welcome Queensland announcing their investment into pathology,’ a spokesman said.
‘The Commonwealth funds 100 per cent per cent of Medicare funded tests and 50 per cent of state-based tests.
‘It is surprise that Queensland is seeking to walk away from their responsibilities and their own decision, reducing their own expenditure on Covid safety.’
Australians have flocked online to slam the rule as a ‘joke’ after families have already spent months separated due to the state’s tough border policy.
Acting chief health officer Peter Aitken said rapid tests should be used in conjunction with PCR tests. Pictured: A health worker swabs a member of the public for Covid-19 at a drive through testing clinic on October 1 in Brisbane
‘So people that have been waiting six months to see their family now have to wait longer because they won’t be able to afford to keep going to QLD if they have to pay for this utter b***s*** – that’s for sure,’ one person wrote.
‘What a joke,’ another add.
‘As a Queenslander, I am so embarrassed by this pack of twits,’ a third said.
Queensland recorded no new Covid cases on Sunday, with latest figures showing 84.35 per cent of eligible residents have had one jab and 73.06 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Earlier this month, the state reopened its borders to fully-vaccinated NSW and Victorians residents although strict rules – including 14 days of quarantine and travel limitations – still apply.
The restrictions will be dropped when the 80 per cent double dose milestone is reached around mid-December.
Pauline Hanson (pictured) has moved a bill to ban vaccine mandates with a passionate speech in the Senate
The announcement comes as One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has moved to ban Covid-19 vaccine mandates with a passionate speech in the Senate.
The Federal Government insists the Covid vaccine is optional but state and territory governments as well as private companies have enforced vaccine mandates, requiring jabs for activities like going to work, the pub or the shops.
Senator Hanson – who is unvaccinated – has introduced a bill to over-ride the states and ban all vaccine discrimination.
‘This legislation is urgently needed to arrest and reverse the pandemic of discrimination that has been unleashed on the Australian people,’ she said.
‘People have a right to choose whether they want to have this vaccination or not. What is the country coming to? If you allow the premiers to have these powers what will be next? This could lead to anything.
‘The Prime Minister is weak, he says there should be no vaccine mandates – then do something about it.’
Senator Hanson also defended pro-choice protesters, saying: ‘They’re not idiots, they’re not ratbags, they’re everyday Australians. They’re not extremists.’
The 67-year-old urged other senators to support her bill which she described as ‘vital’.
‘We don’t do this lightly. We do it with sincere regret that such legislation is even necessary. But make no mistake: it is not only necessary, but absolutely vital,’ she said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Reid MP Fiona Martin visit the Tooheys brewery in Sydney on Thursday
The bill is supported by rogue Coalition senators Matt Canavan and Gerard Rennick, but will be opposed by the Government, Labor and the Greens, meaning it will not pass.
Senator Canavan, who is fully vaccinated, said no-one should be denied the right to work and put food on the table for their families if they don’t want the vaccine.
‘This division has to end,’ he said.
‘I trust Australians to be the masters of their own healthcare… without the heavy hand of Government.’
Kristina Keneally said Labor supports vaccine mandates
Ministers on Monday morning said the Federal Government only supports vaccine mandates in certain healthcare settings and said the states were responsible for economy-wide mandates.
Labor Senator Kristina Keneally slammed the Government for allowing Senator Hanson’s bill to be debated and accused Mr Morrison of pandering to ‘extremists’ to gain votes ahead of next year’s election.
Senator Keneally said Labor supports vaccine mandates guided by health advice to reduce Covid deaths.
Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie slammed Pauline Hanson, saying the One Nation leader normally favours discrimination on other issues such as immigration.
She said vaccine mandates are necessary in healthcare settings and aged care homes to keep people safe.
‘You have a right to choose. You don’t have the right to put vulnerable people’s lives at risk,’ Senator Lambie said.
She also backed businesses to impose vaccine mandates on their customers, saying she knows business owners who have auto-immune diseases who would be ‘risking their lives or shutting down their businesses’ if mandates were banned.
Last week Mr Morrison said vaccine mandates to enter pubs and cafes should not be in place after states reach the 80 per cent vaccination threshold.
While NSW will drop vaccine passports on December 15, Queensland will introduce them to enter hospitality venues on December 17
While NSW will drop vaccine passports on December 15, Queensland will introduce them to enter hospitality venues on December 17 and Victoria has vowed to keep jab requirements in place well into next year.
Mr Morrison, who is under pressure from pro-choice politicians in his party, on Thursday said the only mandates he supports are for health workers.
In a dig at Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, he said unvaccinated people ‘should be able to go to a get a cup of coffee in Brisbane’.
‘Now it’s time for governments to step back and for Australians to take their life back,’ he said during a visit to the Tooheys brewery in Sydney on Thursday.
‘We aren’t in favour of mandatory vaccines imposed by the Government. Businesses can make their own choices on the law but we aren’t about telling them or Australians what to do.
‘Vaccines are only mandatory in cases where you have health workers working with vulnerable people.
‘That’s what our medical advice has always been and, as we get above 80 per cent in particular… they should be able to go to a get a cup of coffee in Brisbane regardless of whether you’ve had a vaccine or not.’