The move follows the discovery of a patient with the British variant which caused the lockdown of the country’s third largest city.
Australia said on Friday it would require all international travelers to test negative for COVID-19 before boarding the plane, as the city of Brisbane braces for a three-day lockdown after confirming an infected patient of the highly infectious variant of the virus first discovered in the United Kingdom.
Negative testing and the lockdown were necessary to prevent the spread of the variant, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.
“I know there will be some in Brisbane today to ask ‘why is this necessary? There is only one case ”. Well, this is no ordinary case. It’s a very special case and one that requires us to treat it very differently, ”Morrison told reporters.
The country closed its borders to non-nationals last March and already requires all international arrivals to undergo a two-week hotel quarantine at their own expense. Just over 6,000 people are allowed to enter the country each week.
The person who contracted the virus in Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city, worked as a cleaner in one of the quarantine hotels and is believed to have contracted the virus from one of the travelers who went isolated over there.
“If we want to stop the spread of this infectious strain, this British strain, we must act immediately,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the media as she announced the lockdown of the city and its suburbs. “If we don’t do it now, it could end up being a 30-day lockdown.”
The restrictions must come into effect at 6:00 p.m. local time (08:00 GMT).
New rules in the UK
The UK was plunged back into lockdown this week after a surge in cases linked to the new variant, raising fears the healthcare system was overwhelmed.
The government announced on Friday that people arriving in England – by boat, plane or train – are also expected to test negative for COVID-19 when they arrive from next week.
Passengers will be required to take a test up to 72 hours before departure.
“We have already put in place important measures to prevent imported cases of COVID-19, but with the development of new strains of the virus internationally, we need to take additional precautions,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. , in a press release.
The ban on travelers from South Africa, where the discovery of another variant of the virus has raised alarm bells, has also been extended to a number of other countries in southern Africa.
There are some exemptions from the testing requirement, but those who refuse to comply will be subject to a fine of 500 British pounds ($ 678.30).
Britain is forcing passengers in many countries to self-isolate for 10 days, or five if they pay for a private test and it turns out negative. These requirements will remain in place after the new pre-departure testing rule comes into effect.
The UK government was working with the decentralized administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which control their transport policies, to put in place similar measures.
Authorities estimate the new variant of the coronavirus, which was first identified in the country in December, is between 50% and 70% more transmissible.