Queensland COVID travel test concerns allayed after days of confusion

Tourists travelling to Queensland from COVID-19 hotspots have been reassured they won’t be forced to foot the bill for an expensive PCR test if they are tested at a government-run clinic.

Bad blood remains between the state and federal governments after days of confusion even after the situation was mostly clarified on Tuesday night.

There had been speculation a trip to Queensland after its December border reopening would cost families hundreds of dollars thanks to the requirement for a negative PCR test.

Private clinics can charge up to $150 for PCR tests, which are more accurate than cheaper, rapid antigen options.

But Mr Hunt said PCR tests at government-run sites were already free, and travellers would only be charged if they needed an official test certificate rather than the text-message confirmation system already in place.

The cost would continue to be split 50-50 by state and federal taxpayers for anyone attending a mass testing clinic or people needing “a test as a result of a state or territory public health order”, he said.

But the war of words heated up again when Ms Palaszczuk on Tuesday night welcomed Mr Hunt’s “commitment to fund PCR tests required to enter Queensland from interstate hotspots”.

“The claim is false,” Mr Hunt said on Twitter a short time later.

“The Commonwealth has always funded 50 per cent of the cost of the PCR tests, as outlined in the Agreement the Premier signed on 13 March 2020.”

“The only thing that has changed is that after accepting text confirmation for 18 months and then rejecting it for 24 hours, Queensland is now accepting the same text messages again, dropping their demand for a certificate.”

Ms Palaszczuk said the “victory” meant people could “look forward to being re-united in time for Christmas – without additional cost – as my government had always planned.”

“I said we work best when we work together. This proves it,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

She insisted the confusion did not come from her government and described the eventual outcome as “a major win for common sense”.

“Minister Hunt says the charge for a PCR test was only when a certificate is required,” she said.

“Queensland made it plain weeks ago that the text message most people receive after a test is acceptable.”

‘We don’t want COVID for Christmas’

Earlier, Ms Palaszczuk defended mandatory PCR testing for those wanting to enter the state from December 17, saying it was necessary to protect Queenslanders.

The Federal government had criticised the requirement of a PCR test to enter Queensland, as opposed to a cheaper antigen option.

“If someone came in without a PCR test and had the virus, it would spread like wildfire through the unvaccinated population of Queensland,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“I don’t want to see the people of Queensland get COVID for Christmas. The Federal Government might, but I don’t.”

The Queensland Premier announced tonight the federal government would help fund travel related PCR tests required to enter Queensland. (Nine)

She said Mr Hunt “just has to make it a Medicare rebate and then it’s affordable to everybody”. That funding arrangement only applies for tests ordered by doctors for patients suspected of having COVID-19, according to the federal minister.

“The Commonwealth and states jointly fund (50/50) tests for: people who are sick or have COVID symptoms that attend a mass testing clinic without seeing their doctor; people who require a test as a result of a state or territory public health order,” he said, in a statement.

“This includes travel domestically as a result of a states border restrictions, close contacts without symptoms (ie where a positive case may have attended a shopping centre), workplace testing requirements in high-risk settings.

“A pathology test will only be charged for a patient when they are required to obtain an official certificate, rather than using the existing text message system that is in operation in every state and territory.”

He described the threat to reject such tests after 18 months of cooperation as a “farce”.

Concerns sprung up last week asymptomatic testing for travel would require a test from a private clinic, which could cost a family of four $600 to cross the border.

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said expensive and mandatory testing requirements would dissuade his state’s residents from visiting Queensland.

“You just can’t open domestic travel in circumstances where you’re slogging people a couple of hundred bucks. They just won’t travel,” he said.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said residents would be dissuaded from entering Queensland due to costly mandatory testing requirements. (Nine)

The Queensland and NSW premiers have called for the divisive issue to be discussed at National Cabinet.

“The Commonwealth has pushed back and said hold on a sec, that’s not a symptomatic test, I’m not sure we should pay,” Mr Perrottet said.

“The question going forward is if states put in restrictions and if one of those restrictions is you must get a test before travelling, who’s going to foot the bill?”

Ms Palaszczuk also addressed new bans on short trips to COVID-19 hotspots, closing a loophole that would allow Queenslanders to use the same PCR test upon leaving and entering the state provided they did so within the 72-hour mandatory testing period.

Queenslanders won’t be able to take trips shorter than three days until the state reaches its 90 per cent vaccination target, expected in January.

“It’s about keeping the rest of the community safe and we’re at 86.4 per cent (single dose) so we are getting there. We need people to get vaccinated,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

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