1 Jan 2023

Australian government announces mandatory Covid-19 testing for China travellers

8:05 pm on 1 January 2023
A health worker takes a swab sample from a woman to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus in the Jing'an district in Shanghai on December 22, 2022. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

Travellers from China will be required to prove a negative Covid-19 test prior to visiting Australia. Photo: HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP

From 5 January, travellers from China to Australia will be required to have a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test, and New Zealand says it is now assessing the health risks.

China has seen skyrocketing Covid case numbers, and a range of other countries including the United Kingdom, the United States and France have also imposed testing requirements.

NZ government duty minister Stuart Nash said tonight that New Zealand is currently assessing the situation.

"I've been informed today that Australia has announced pre-departure testing for travellers arriving from China. This measure is being taken in response to the rapidly unfolding situation in China.

"New Zealand has a public health risk assessment under way which will be completed in the next 24 hours.

"Our response will remain proportionate to the potential risks posed by travellers and in the context of the international situation."

New Zealand, to date, has said it has no plans to introduce testing for Chinese visitors, the Ministry of Health said last week.

Australia's health minister, Mark Butler, says this decision taken was out of an "abundance of caution" and a temporary measure due to the lack of detailed information about the epidemiological situation in China.

"That lack of comprehensive information has led a number of countries in recent days to put in place various measures - not to restrict travel from China, it's important to say - but to gather better information about what is happening epidemiologically in that country," he said.

Butler said the government warmly welcomes visitors from China, and Australia was "well positioned right now in the fight against Covid".

"The resumption of travel between China and Australia poses no immediate public health threat to Australians," he said.

Butler said universities and the tourism industry will also welcome the resumption of travel from China, as would people who have long been separated from their family and friends.

"We know there are many many hundreds of thousands of Chinese Australians who have been unable to see family and friends for months - and, in some cases, years - and their ability to do that over the coming period will be a matter of considerable joy for them, particularly as we head into the Lunar New Year period," he said.

Butler said that, although the subvariant that appears to be driving the wave in China was already present in Australia, the situation was "developing very quickly".

"There are concerns, in an environment of cases spreading so quickly, about the possibility of the emergence of a new variant," he said.

"Now there's no evidence of that right now.

"This is a measure taken out of an abundance of caution to provide Australians and the Australian government with the best possible information about a fast-evolving situation."

Butler said the Chinese government was informed about the measures this morning.

"It won't come as any surprise to the Chinese government that Australia is putting this arrangement in place, I don't think, given the broad range of countries that have taken similar steps over the last 48 to 72 hours," he said.

Places now imposing curbs on China travellers as of 1 January

UNITED STATES: The United States will impose mandatory Covid-19 tests on travellers from China beginning on 5 January. All air passengers aged two and older will require a negative result from a test no more than two days before departure from China, Hong Kong or Macau. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said US citizens should also reconsider travel to China, Hong Kong and Macau.

BRITAIN: The UK will require a pre-departure negative Covid-19 test from passengers from China as of 5 January, the Department of Health said on Friday.

FRANCE: France will require travellers from China to provide a negative Covid test result less than 48 hours before departure, the health and transport ministries said on Friday. From 1 January France will also carry out random PCR Covid tests upon arrival on some travellers coming from China, a government official told reporters.

AUSTRALIA: Travellers from China to Australia will need to submit a negative Covid-19 test from 5 January, Australian Health Minister Mark Butler said on Sunday, joining other nations that have implemented similiar restrictions as cases surge in China.

INDIA: The country has mandated a Covid-19 negative test report for travellers arriving from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Thailand, the health minister said. Passengers from those countries will be quarantined if they show symptoms or test positive.

CANADA: Air travellers to Canada from China must test negative for Covid-19 no more than two days before departure, Ottawa said on Saturday, joining other nations that have implemented such restrictions.

JAPAN: Japan will require a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival for travellers from mainland China. Those who test positive will be required to quarantine for seven days. New border measures for China went into effect at midnight on 30 December. The government will also limit requests from airlines to increase flights to China.

ITALY: Italy has ordered Covid-19 antigen swabs and virus sequencing for all travellers from China. Milan's main airport, Malpensa, had already started testing passengers arriving from Beijing and Shanghai. "The measure is essential to ensure surveillance and detection of possible variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population," Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said.

SPAIN: Spain will require a negative Covid-19 test or a full course of vaccination against the disease upon arrival for travellers from China, the country's Health Minister Carolina Darias said.

MALAYSIA: Malaysia will screen all inbound travellers for fever and test wastewater from aircraft arriving from China for Covid-19, Minister Zaliha Mustafa said in a statement.

TAIWAN: Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Centre said all passengers on direct flights from China, as well as by boat at two offshore islands, will have to take PCR tests upon arrival, starting on 1 January.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea will require travellers from China to provide negative Covid test results before departure, South Korea's News1 news agency reported on Friday.

MOROCCO: Morocco will impose a ban on people arriving from China, whatever their nationality, from 3 January to avert any new wave of coronavirus infections, the foreign ministry said on Saturday.

- ABC/Reuters

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs