South Australia’s Premier will again lobby national cabinet for the introduction of pre-flight COVID-19 testing for all returning international travellers, amid ongoing concerns about new strains of the virus.
Steven Marshall previously raised the idea in November as part of an eight-point plan in the wake of South Australia’s Parafield cluster.
Under the plan, which would have to be approved by national cabinet, all returning travellers would be required to undergo mandatory coronavirus tests.
They would then have to return a negative result before boarding their flights.
National Cabinet was next due to meet in early February but that was brought forward following urgent calls from state and territory leaders, amid the threat of an aggressive and highly contagious strain from the UK.
The strain has been detected in recent arrivals in Adelaide, while another variant linked to South Africa has also been detected in Australia.
Mr Marshall said he raised the idea of pre-flight testing with national cabinet in December, and would again make the case at tomorrow’s meeting.
“We are very concerned with what’s happening with the situation around the rest of the world,” he said.
“I think it’s absolutely critical that we do that pre-flight testing … we’ve been very keen to progress it again tomorrow at national cabinet.”
Mr Marshall said he had spoken to other premiers about the proposal, while Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier has also raised it with interstate counterparts.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today called for similar measures, and also wants masks to be worn on all domestic and international flights.
While Mr Marshall said he would like to see overseas citizens return home if they wished to do so, his priority was protecting the local community.
“We’re very supportive of the repatriation of Australian citizens who are stranded overseas,” he said.
“We believe that a pre-flight test will provide an added level of risk mitigation for those people that are coming in … we’ve got to keep our protection, and our population protected.
“If we can find even a small percentage of people who have COVID prior to getting on a flight and eliminate them from the flight, that’s got to be a benefit for our nation.”
South Australia today recorded no new coronavirus cases but has 10 active cases, all of whom are in hotel quarantine and acquired the virus overseas.
“The second and third waves happening in other countries are producing devastating consequences on the health systems in those countries and we don’t want those problems here,” Mr Marshall said.
While testing of passengers before they board overseas flights is not currently mandatory, some airlines require it.
The ABC has contacted the office of Health Minister Greg Hunt for comment on the pre-flight testing proposal.