Federal Minister Contradicts Queensland Minister on Health Guidelines

A digital screen displays flight arrival times at Brisbane Airport in Queensland, Australia, on Jan. 7, 2021. (Jono Searle/Getty Images)

Australia’s federal health department has contradicted a state health minister who said her state would not halve quarantine to seven days until there was a change in federal guidelines.

From Nov. 1, states and territories began lifting COVID-19 restrictions on international and domestic travel in line with a national plan.

But Queensland has opted instead to follow its own plan that sees it keeping some restrictions in place for longer, based on vaccination rates, while other states drop theirs.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said her state’s roadmap might change depending on any changes to the guidelines of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

“Of course, we will continue to take the advice,” D’Ath said this week.

“If things change, if the advice we’re getting from the health professionals is that you can quarantine for shorter periods of time, or you don’t need to put as many people into quarantine if they’re close contacts, then we’ll take that advice. But at this stage, it is still testing tracing isolating and quarantining.”

Meanwhile, New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria have scrapped quarantine for international arrivals, but D’Ath has said their situations are different because those states have a high prevalence of the virus, whereas Queensland has almost none.

“It’s in effect, a bit simpler when you’ve got 1,500 plus cases every day to say, ‘Well, it’s OK for people from overseas to come in with the virus because we’ve already got this virus spreading throughout our community’,” she told reporters on Monday.

However, a federal health department spokesman told 9News that Queensland didn’t need AHPPC approval.

“ Queensland Government is able to move to modified, or no quarantine arrangements as other state and territories have done already … [and] does not require the agreement of the AHPPC,” the spokesman said.

While NSW and Victoria have dropped quarantine for fully vaccinated international arrivals now that the 80 percent vaccination threshold has been reached, Queensland will only do so once 90 percent has been reached.

D’Ath said there were many reasons for this, including the possibility that new virus variants might emerge overseas and that vaccines made overseas might not be as effective as locally made vaccines.

She also won’t reduce mandatory quarantine from 14 days to seven, despite other states, including South Australia doing so.

Queensland’s interstate borders remain closed until Dec. 17. But international arrivals will still need to quarantine until the state reaches its 90 percent vaccination milestone.

International arrivals into NSW and Victoria will need to prove they’ve received a vaccine approved by the rapeutic Goods Administration and pass a COVID-19 PCR test before they board their flight.

For now, only Australian citizens, permanent residents, their immediate family members, some New Zealanders and those with appropriate visas are allowed to fly to Australia from overseas.

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Pezou : Federal Minister Contradicts Queensland Minister on Health Guidelines