Australia’s COVID tests for China went against health advice | Coronavirus pandemic News
Australia’s chief medical officer advised that there was not ‘sufficient public health rationale’ for the new travel rules.
Australia has introduced COVID-19 testing for travelers arriving from China despite the country’s top health official advising against doing so, a newly released letter shows.
In a letter to Health Minister Mark Butler on Saturday, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said he did not believe there was a public health basis to introduce new travel requirements for people come from China.
Kelly said Australia’s high level of vaccination and prior infection status, and the fact that the BF.7 Omicron sub-variant seems to be causing the cases in China has been circulating in the country, along with for other reasons, meaning that there is no “enough public health rationale” for the new travel rules.
He said there was “strong consensus” among health officials in the states of Australia and New Zealand that restricting travel from China would be “inconsistent with the current national approach to management of COVID-19 and disproportionate risk”.
Kelly recommended that, rather than restricting travel, the government should consider expanding wastewater testing, introduce voluntary sampling for international visitors, and improve tracking of people who test positive. with COVID-19 and a recent history of foreign travel.
Despite the advice, Butler announced the next day that travelers from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, would have to test negative for COVID within 48 hours of travel.
Butler said he made the decision “out of an abundance of caution, taking into account the dynamic and evolving situation in China and the possibility of new variants emerging in a high-transmission environment.”
Butler said at the time he was given a “detailed brief” by Kelly but did not go into detail about the nature of the advice he received. Butler has since defended the measures as “very modest” and a “balanced decision”.
Kelly’s letter to Butler was published on the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care website on Monday evening.
Australia’s move follows the introduction of similar measures by United States, United Kingdom, Korea, India, Japan, Taiwan, Italy, France and Spain.
Canada on Saturday also announced it would begin testing people arriving from China from January 5.
Authorities have pointed to concerns that an increase in cases in China after Beijing lifted its tough “no COVID” policy could lead to the emergence of new and more dangerous variants. .
Some health experts have criticized the testing requirements, saying they will do little to stop the spread of new variants and risk sparking xenophobia.
China has criticized the testing regulations as “unnecessary”, while Chinese state media has criticized the measures as “baseless” and “discriminatory”.
China is set to lift mandatory quarantine for arrivals from January 8 after three years of strict border controls, but will continue to require all arrivals to be tested for COVID.