Australia defies health advice on Covid tests for Chinese arrivals
Australian opposition leader Peter Dutton has accused the government of ignoring medical advice on Covid-19 restrictions by forcing passengers arriving from China to undergo mandatory testing.
On Sunday, Canberra announced that starting from January 5, people traveling from China will have to test negative for Covid-19 within 48 hours prior to the trip. This appears to contradict the advice of Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, who previously stated that he did not “believe that there is sufficient public health rationale to impose any restriction or additional requirements on travelers from China.”
In a joint statement on Tuesday, Dutton and opposition health spokeswoman Anne Ruston urged Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to explain why he was not following this recommendation.
“The last thing our country needs is a panicked response from a government that doesn’t have a plan and, frankly, over the last week, has been making it up as they go along,” the statement said.
Dutton and Ruston also noted that new restrictions “disrupt families and businesses,” adding: “Australians expect that their government is prepared for situations like this; instead, we are left with chaos and confusion.”
On Sunday, Australian Health Minister Mark Butler scrambled to defend the new restrictions for visitors from China, saying they were imposed “out of an abundance of caution.” He also cited the “lack of comprehensive information” Beijing was providing on the coronavirus situation in the country.
By imposing a 48-hour testing rule, Australia joined a number of other countries, including the US, France and the UK, who introduced similar restrictions.
In an editorial published in the state outlet Global Times last week, Beijing slammed the testing requirements as “unfounded and discriminatory” while accusing Western countries of attempting to “sabotage China’s three years of Covid-19 control efforts and attack the country’s system.”
Last month, Bloomberg and the Financial Times claimed that almost 250 million people in China may have contracted Covid-19 in the first 20 days of December. However, China’s National Health Commission officially reported only 62,592 symptomatic Covid cases for that period.
Last week, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbi described the country’s “epidemic situation” as “predictable and under control.”