National Cabinet makes masks mandatory on flights, announces new coronavirus strain rapid testing for travellers from UK
International passenger caps will be halved in three states and all passengers, including on domestic flights, will have to wear masks as part of new protocols agreed to by National Cabinet.
- Masks will be mandatory for all international and domestic flights
- International arrival caps will be halved until February 15
- All international travellers will have to return a negative test before being allowed to fly to Australia
Passengers on all international flights will also be subject to rapid testing for the new strain of coronavirus before they board flights home.
The new protocols were confirmed by National Cabinet at an urgent meeting called this week to discuss the threat of the new UK strain, which Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly described as “more infectious [and] much more difficult to control”.
People must return a negative test before they travel to Australia with limited exemptions allowed for seasonal workers.
If a person returns a positive test they and any household contacts will be barred from flying back.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new arrangements were already in place on a “should” basis but would now be a “must” basis.
He said the 50 per cent reduction in international arrival caps in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia would remain until February 15.
“The purpose here is to both reduce and de-bulk the risk in terms of exposure to the new strain,” he said.
“What we do know is that this new strain is some 70 per cent more transmissible than the previous strains of the virus.
“This strain is likely to become [the] more dominant strain of the virus globally.”
Under the new rules, New South Wales will move to a weekly cap of about 1,500, Western Australia and Queensland 500, Victoria will not change as they are already operating at a lower capacity after their outbreak and South Australia will also not change its caps.
“In the smaller jurisdictions — the ACT, the Northern Territory, Tasmania — they are very bespoke arrangements in relation to those airports and they’ll be settled between the Commonwealth and those jurisdictions specifically,” he said.
Mr Morrison said health authorities had considered stopping flights into Australia but it was not recommended to National Cabinet.
“Australia needs to continue to function,” he said.
“It would have meant not just one country, it would mean the world.”
Under another new rule announced today, Mr Morrison said quarantine workers such as cleaners in quarantine hotels or bus drivers at airports would have to undertake daily testing.
PM backs move to lock down Brisbane
Speaking on the Queensland Government’s announcement that Greater Brisbane would go into a three-day lockdown after a cleaner who worked in hotel quarantine tested positive for the UK strain, Mr Morrison said he supported the move.
The Commonwealth has since declared Brisbane a hotspot, following on from other states this morning.
Mr Morrison said people in Brisbane should stay where they are.
“Don’t go anywhere,” he said.
“Don’t go home to another state or any other part of your state.
“If you’re somewhere else and you are planning to go [to Brisbane], don’t.
“This is something we can’t allow to get ahead of us.”
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, who also supported the move to lock down Brisbane, said it was important to “go hard fast and strong”.
“All of the things we’ve done in the past, all of those controls we’ve talked about — test, trace, isolate — all of those personal measures [will] become less effective if this virus was to establish itself in Australia.”
It was also announced National Cabinet will now meet every fortnight.