Melbourne Airport requests the federal government to relax Australia's COVID-19 testing requirements for the inbound international passengers. This is to avoid Australian residents and skilled workers getting stranded abroad.
Melbourne’s current COVID-19 guidelines require the passengers to take a pre-flight PCR test within three days of an inbound journey. The travellers who detect positive in the pre-flight PCR test cannot return to Australia. According to Lorie Argus, Chief of Aviation, Melbourne Airport, the pre-flight PCR is unnecessary.
“What we’re calling on is the removal of that requirement because they [vaccinated inbound travellers] are no higher risk to the community, given we have so many cases within the community already,” Ms Argus said.
According to Argus, the guideline does little to protect public health as Australia is already recording thousands of new COVID-19 cases every day. “We want to remove that pre-departure test, so that Australian residents or the skilled workers that are also able to enter, can arrive into Australia and if testing positive on arrival, can go into seven days isolation as anyone would here in the community,” Ms Argus said.
14 days quarantine for passengers tested positive abroad
The COVID-19 guidelines of Australia make its own citizens reluctant to travel abroad. They fear that they cannot return to their home country if tested positive in the pre-flight PCR test. Travellers are still made to take tests after arrival in the country and are made to quarantine.
Besides the pre-flight PCR test, Australians are also asked to wait 14 days before flying home after they test positive overseas. Ms Argus finds this unfair as the positive cases in Australia have to isolate only seven days.
Catherine Bennett, Chair of Epidemiology, Deakin University, also agrees that pre-flight testing will make little difference. The risk is only for the passengers in the flight, but the impact is still low as it will affect only people who happen to sit next to someone positive.
Melbourne Airport recorded a footfall of 135,823 international passengers through its gates in December 2021. This is the highest number since Australia closed its border in March 2020. The figure is 17,573 higher from November 2021. The data is no match to pre-COVID days as it comes only around a tenth of its pre-pandemic traffic.