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Queensland scraps pre-travel PCR tests

Queensland scraps pre-travel PCR tests
Photo: Queensland scraps pre-travel PCR tests
Queensland has caved to mounting political pressure and will allow interstate hotspot travellers to enter with a negative COVID-19 result from a rapid antigen test.

"From January 1 travellers into Qld from interstate hotspots can use a negative rapid antigen test to satisfy border pass requirements," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk tweeted on Wednesday.

"A PCR test will no longer be required."

The rule change comes as the state records another uptick in COVID cases, reporting 1589 new cases from 35,002 tests in the latest 24-hour period.

The state has 6368 active cases, but no patients are being treated in ICU.

Omicron continues to be the more dominant strain of COVID, accounting for almost 80 per cent of the state's identified cases.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said the move to rapid antigen testing was appropriate.
"I advised the premier that rapid antigen testing was an appropriate form of testing in the current environment for interstate travellers from hotspots like NSW," Dr Gerrard said.

He deflected concerns that the supply and availability of the test was an issue.

"Rapid antigen tests in Queensland at the moment are difficult to obtain ... we are led to believe they are available in NSW," Dr Gerrard said.

"The value of rapid antigen tests ... is in the context of widescale transmission of the virus.

"They are not as sensitive as PCR, so they can miss a proportion of positive cases, but in the context of widescale transmission, that's where they start to become useful - and we're entering that phase."

Travellers will have to declare the results of their RAT in border applications.

Queensland's tough testing regime for visitors - including the need for a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival - had come under fire.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet begged the Queensland government to ease border entry requirements.

He said the "tourism testing" had clogged NSW's overwhelmed testing system, with thousands of travellers queuing for hours to be swabbed.

Wait times for results are even longer, with the usual 24-hour turnaround blowing out to five days in some cases.

"There are people getting tests who don't have any symptoms, are not feeling unwell ... and are taking the place of people who are unwell or who are required to get a test by NSW Health," Mr Perrottet said.

News of Queensland's RAT acceptance comes a day after the state scrapped controversial day-five PCR tests, which authorities conceded wasn't "contributing in any way" to keeping the community safe.

Of the tens of thousands of travellers who have crossed state lines since the Queensland border reopened, 0.6 per cent have recorded a positive result in the day-five test.

The RAT move remains temporary until Queensland hits its double vaccination target.

"Once we reach that 90 per cent dose rate ... these requirements are eliminated altogether," Dr Gerrard said.

Queensland on Wednesday stayed at 90.5 per cent of people having received one dose of a vaccine, according to federal government data.

The number of fully vaccinated eligible Queensland residents aged over 16, raised slightly to 86.2 per cent.

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