Australia, Canada to start Covid-19 testing for travellers from China, HK

The temporary measure has been put in place because of a “lack of comprehensive information” about the situation in China. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY – Australia said travellers departing from China, Hong Kong and Macau will require a negative Covid-19 test before boarding flights to the country.

The temporary measure, which will start on Jan 5, has been put in place because of a “lack of comprehensive information” about the situation in China, said Health Minister Mark Butler on Sunday.

“The decision to implement these temporary measures has been made out of an abundance of caution, taking into account the dynamic and evolving situation in China, and the potential for new variants to emerge in an environment of high transmission,” the minister said in a statement. Tests will need to be taken in the 48 hours prior to travel.

The government is also considering additional measures including testing wastewater from airplanes and voluntary sampling at airports for arrivals, Mr Butler told a news conference.

“I want to stress that the government welcomes the resumption of travel between Australia and China... I also want to stress that this is a temporary measure, reflecting the lack of comprehensive information right now about the situation in China,” he said.

There is a growing list of countries testing passengers and sequencing samples from people arriving from China in an effort to identify any dangerous new mutations that could spread rapidly through their populations. They include the United States, Japan, Britain and France. 

Canada joined that list on Saturday, and will require travellers arriving from China, Hong Kong and Macau from Jan 5 to provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test result – taken no more than two days before their departure – to airlines prior to boarding.

The move is taken in response to the surge of Covid-19 cases in China and “the limited epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data available on these cases”, the government said in a statement, adding that the measure will be assessed after 30 days as more data and evidence becomes available. BLOOMBERG

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.