National Cabinet is expected to approve new measures to strengthen COVID-19 protections covering international and domestic travel in response to the growing threat of the new and highly transmissible UK strain of coronavirus.
- National Cabinet is meeting on Friday to review the threat of a new strain of coronavirus
- Masks are set to become mandatory on all flights and other measures are likely to be brought in
- A cleaner in Queensland is the first known case in the state to have contracted the UK strain with health alerts issued for venues she visited
Premiers and chief ministers will be asked on Friday to urgently examine the new measures for overseas travellers.
They include mandatory mask use on all domestic and international flights.
Travellers from the UK will be required to undergo rapid testing pre-flight and post-flight that would deliver a result within hours or even minutes.
Other passengers flying into Australia would undergo ordinary testing both before and after their travel.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week announced an urgent meeting of state and territory leaders would be held ahead of schedule because of concerns about the UK’s more infectious mutation of the virus.
“Getting Australians home is important but [so is] keeping Australians safe and ensuring the robustness of our processes and the quarantine arrangements, particularly with the additional risks that come with the more contagious strain,” Mr Morrison said.
On Thursday night the Queensland Government announced a cleaner has the more contagious strain of the virus.
Earlier on Thursday, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the National Cabinet would review measures beyond the hotel quarantine system.
“We know that hotel quarantine is safe,” he said.
“We need to, though, look at what else — if anything — needs to be done.
“That is what will be discussed at National Cabinet.”
The ABC has confirmed chief health officers from around the country have spent Thursday discussing how to properly implement enhanced screening of overseas arrivals to prevent possible transmission of the virus.
There are some legal concerns over how to enforce rapid COVID-19 tests at overseas airports and whether masks should be made compulsory on arrival at airports or only once passengers are boarding flights.
Under current rules, it is mandatory for passengers to wear a mask if they fly to, from and within New South Wales or Victoria, while airlines recommend customers also have them on other services.
Around 40,000 Australians remain stranded overseas, having registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as wanting to return home but unable to secure flights.
The Prime Minister and state and territory leaders are expected to monitor the spread of the UK variant over coming weeks and could mandate rapid pre-flight COVID tests for passengers departing from other nations.
The ABC has approached the Federal Government for comment.
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