The Queensland Premier has shifted the focus of the $150 PCR tests – which arrivals are required to undertake – on to the federal government saying Health Minister Greg Hunt could “easily make it a Medicare rebate”.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has called on the federal government to make the expensive COVID-19 tests – which are required when entering Queensland – a Medicare rebate.
Under the Queensland border restrictions when 80 per cent double dose vaccination is reached, arrivals will be required to return a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival despite the tests costing $150 for those who do not have COVID-19 symptoms.
On Monday evening Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt sent a strongly worded letter to his Queensland counterpart to “raise concerns” about the border policy and lack of regard for the cheaper rapid antigen tests.
The Premier then went on to defend her government’s decision to stick with the expensive tests and called Mr Hunt’s letter a political act.
“I’ll let Greg Hunt look after his job and I’ll do my job and now is not the time to fight, now is the time to work together… I’d like to see this issue resolved at National Cabinet,” she said.
“It’s just disappointing that some people want to be political at the moment when all we’re trying to do is keep Queenslanders safe.”
Ms Palaszczuk suggested if travellers struggle to pay for the $150 PCR tests those issues could be avoided if the federal government fronted the bill.
“Greg Hunt can quite easily make it a Medicare rebate, he can do that with a stroke of a pen,” she said.
“The best solution is to make it a Medicare rebate and the federal government can do that with the stroke of a pen, I understand this is going to be on the agenda at National Cabinet.”
In Mr Hunt’s letter he expressed concern that Queensland was not following the national plan which notes that “the Commonwealth’s hotspot declaration automatically ceases within a particular state or territory two weeks after the 80 per cent fully vaccinated rate has been reached within that jurisdiction.”
Despite Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and the ACT all having double dose vaccination rates well above 80 per cent, arrivals from those states will still be required to pay for a $150 PCR test.
Mr Hunt also raised concerns about the Queensland government’s failure to “give sufficient regard to the value of rapid antigen testing” which has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Under Queensland’s border restrictions, the PCR tests will no longer be required when the state reaches 90 per cent double dose vaccination but it is unclear when that will be with 84.6 per cent of the population having received one dose so far.
The Premier continued to defend her government’s border policy saying if the PCR tests were not mandatory the unvaccinated would be endangered.
“We need to detect if someone has this virus as quickly as possible, these PCR tests are the most effective, it is about keeping the rest of the Queensland community safe,” she said.
“The issue would be if someone came in without a PCR test and had the virus, it would spread like wildfire through the unvaccinated population of Queensland.
“I don’t want to see the people of Queensland get COVID for Christmas, the federal government might but I don’t. “