National Cabinet agrees to ease COVID testing requirements

National Cabinet agrees to ease COVID testing requirements

All states and territories except Western Australia are set to remove testing requirements for interstate travel, following a National Cabinet meeting where ministers also agreed to scrap the need to take a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test if you've already had a rapid antigen test (RAT) come back positive.

However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a press conference this afternoon exceptions would still apply in Queensland and Tasmania for the time being.

"Queensland and Tasmania will make an announcement when they finally dispense with that RAT test requirement...that will be done in Queensland's case when they hit 90 per cent double dose vaccination, and Tasmania will be making an announcement on that in the course of the next week or so," the PM said.

"If it's not an essential test, you're not a close contact, you're not symptomatic, you shouldn't be in those lines."

He added there would also be no requirement for a second test post-arrival for those who are returning or arriving from overseas, provided their RAT on arrival is negative, "remembering that 99 per cent of those who are turning up at our airports are double vaccinated".

"We are not seeing large number of cases come through international arrivals. Cases are community transmission - that's where the greatest risks are," he said.

"There will no longer be that requirement for a second test other than in Queensland, where Queensland say they will still insist on that until we get to a position of 90 per cent double vaccination in that state."

The measures are aimed at alleviating the strain on RAT supplies and PCR testing infrastructure.

"We are looking at what is a relatively short term supply constraint, because we now have over 200 million tests between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories which they're on their way to Australia this month and next. The Commonwealth alone has 70 million," he said.

The Federal Government will also use the Biosecurity Act to include RATs in the price gouging provisions, meaning anyone who sells these tests at more than a 20 per cent mark-up could risk a $66,000 fine and up to five years in jail.

After Australia reported 64,715 daily cases today of which more than half were in NSW, these figures could well put the country in an unenviable Top 10 globally once other countries have submitted their data for the day.

Yesterday, Australia was 11th in the world for new daily cases at 47,695, but today's figure is more in line with the numbers reported in India.

"The rest of the country [except WA] now have case numbers that are on the trajectory of rapid escalation, just like we've seen in New South Wales and Victoria, and they're reporting the same limited impacts on their ICUs (intensive care units) and their ventilator requirements in those jurisdictions," the PM said.

Updated at 6pm AEDT on 5 January 2022.

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