People travelling to Queensland will not have to pay $150 for a Covid-19 test, despite an odd spat between the Premier and Health Minister.
People travelling into Queensland from December 17 will not have to pay $150 for a Covid-19 test, despite widespread confusion over border rules.
A war of words erupted between Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Health Minister Greg Hunt over speculation that travellers to the Sunshine State would need to pay for the test.
Queensland is set to open to visitors from across the country, including hotspot areas, next month – either on December 17, or once the state reaches its 80 per cent vaccination rate.
However, there has been widespread confusion over entry requirements.
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For days, there was backlash over a supposed plan to charge incoming travellers $150 for PCR tests required 72 hours before entry.
Yesterday, Ms Palaszczuk posted a tweet claiming the Health Minister was committed to funding the pricey tests so travellers would not be slugged with the bill.
But late on Tuesday night, Mr Hunt hit back in a tweet of his own, claiming “the claim is false” and that the federal government had always funded half the cost only.
He followed it up with a series of brutal tweets slamming the Premier, and calling on her to apologise.
“The only thing that has changed is that after accepting text confirmation for 18 months and then rejecting it for 24 hours, Queensland is now accepting the same text messages again, dropping their demand for a certificate,” Mr Hunt continued.
“It’s time the Premier apologised for the unnecessary stress she has caused to Queenslanders and those planning to travel there.”
Mr Hunt has since confirmed Australian travellers won’t have to pay for the tests if they are obtained at state-run clinics, with Ms Palaszczuk confirming the news that a standard free test and text message confirming a negative result would suffice in a statement.
She insisted the days of confusion over the tests did not start in her state, and described it as a win for “common sense”.
“I said we work best when we work together,” the Premier said.
“This proves it.
“Minister Hunt says the charge for a PCR test was only when a certificate is required.
“Queensland made it plain weeks ago that the text message most people receive after a test is acceptable.
“I am pleased this victory has occurred and people can look forward to being reunited in time for Christmas – without additional cost – as my government had always planned.”
But appearing on Sunrise on Wednesday morning, Mr Hunt insisted nothing had changed.
“The answer for Australians is really simple, for 18 months under an agreement that was signed by the Queensland Premier on 13 March 2020, there has been a shared arrangement where people under public health orders which Queensland have put in place can access free Covid testing,” he said.
“The situation that has been in place for 18 months, unchanged at our end, there was a waiver from Queensland, they’re back in the tent and what matters is that there is certainty for families.
“Our position has been consistent and we have always shared half of the costs of all of the state and territory testing. We continue to do that and I am glad that they are not taking it away.”
Mr Hunt said he did not know where the confusion had originated.
“All I know is that since March 13 of 2020 there … has been a shared agreement between the Commonwealth and every state and territory,” he said.
“We have paid out $6.6 billion so I would be surprised if someone forgot with that amount of Commonwealth funding having been paid to states and territories.”
‘Orchestrated campaign to confuse’
Meanwhile, Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles has accused the federal government of conducting an “orchestrated campaign to confuse people” over the $150 PCR test saga.
Fronting the media for the state’s daily Covid press conference on Wednesday morning, Dr Miles doubled down on claims the uncertainty was caused by the Queensland government, and insisted the government had simply confirmed that PCR tests would remain a requirement for incoming travellers once the state reopened its borders.
He also accused the federal government of carrying out a “backgrounding campaign to distract from their own leadership tensions”.
“It wasn’t us saying it would cost people, we were asked if people would need the test,” he said.
“The arrangements we put in place are very clear – you need a negative PCR test before you arrive in Queensland after that 80 per cent vaccination status, which we now expect to be a bit earlier than December 17.
“They are the exact same arrangements we have always provided here in Queensland before people travel to other states. It would have been nice if (Mr Hunt) had clarified earlier.”
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