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Canberra Airport CEO Stephen Byron demands Queensland drop PCR requirement, says rule has ‘destroyed’ ACT testing | The Canberra Times

coronavirus, covid-19, coronavirus, testing, the ACT, rapid antigen tests

Queensland’s PCR test requirement has “destroyed” the ACT’s testing regime and must be urgently scrapped, Canberra Airport says. Canberra Airport chief executive Stephen Byron has written to the Queensland government, warning COVID-19 cases were going undetected in the ACT because interstate travellers were clogging up the territory’s testing system. Queensland currently requires travellers from the ACT to test negative via a PCR test within 72 hours of arrival. The ACT’s three testing sites open on Monday were at capacity by midday, as interstate travellers joined close contacts and symptomatic Canberrans in a rush to get tested. The territory’s contact-tracers have advised they were days behind as they struggled to meet demand, with many Canberrans forced to assess whether they were a casual or close contact themselves. The ACT government estimated interstate travellers accounted for roughly half of people undergoing PCR tests in the territory. South Australia abruptly scrapped a PCR test requirement for interstate travellers on Boxing Day, accepting a negative rapid antigen test to ease testing queues across the country. Mr Byron has called on Queensland to follow suit, warning interstate travellers were clogging the territory’s testing regime and preventing authorities from uncovering COVID-19 cases. And with the virus already spreading quickly in Queensland, which recorded 784 cases on Monday, they said there was no justification for requiring a PCR test within 72 hours of arrival. ACT Health has warned PCR test results were often taking longer than 48 hours, and Mr Byron warned interstate requirements had “destroyed the ACT testing and containment strategy”. “They should revert to rapid antigen tests urgently as they are doing real damage to Canberrans,” he said. “Testing clinics are under unreasonable pressure. No one should have to wait so long for a test. Travellers and families should not be put under this sort of stress. “Overall, Queensland’s rules are causing lots more cases of COVID to be undetected in the ACT. “It has to stop. Urgently.” READ MORE COVID-19 NEWS: Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week urged states to accept rapid antigen tests – less accurate than PCR tests, but with a quick turnaround – as a condition of entry. But Queensland has repeatedly stated it would not make the shift until the New Year at the earliest, and only after being given the green light by health authorities. Given huge wait times for tests in NSW and Victoria, often exceeding 72 hours, that has left some travellers forced to isolate even after arriving in Queensland. It comes as health experts call for federal and state government to provide rapid antigen tests free-of-charge, arguing they would provide an added layer of protection and ease wait times. NSW was exploring ways to provide the test some time in the New Year. Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this outbreak of COVID-19 in the ACT is free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our newsletters for regular updates. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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