Australians were also highly vaccinated and had access to testing and antivirals, meaning they were “very well protected from the severe issues”.
However, neither he nor Albanese ruled out future action.
“The biggest issue in China that we need to watch is the emergence of other variants, and at this stage that hasn’t happened,” Kelly said in an interview with ABC radio. “It’s a dynamic situation. We certainly need to watch closely what’s happening in China, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The stance has not satisfied everyone. The Victorian president of the Australian Medical Association, Roderick McRae, said anyone arriving from China should be screened at the airport and forced to quarantine at the Mickleham quarantine facility for seven days.
He said Australia should prepare for an avalanche of cases. “We need to think that every jet that comes into Tullamarine from China is just riddled with COVID-19, and we need to take it seriously,” McRae said.
“Do we want to fill our hospitals with tourists from China coming to the Australian Open, or do we want to look after Victorians who have already got deferred care, larger cancers in their bodies [and other illnesses]? It’s an important conversation the community needs to have.”
He also warned of new variants, saying: “It was the circumstances in China that started SARS-COVID-2 … If someone comes off a plane from China coughing or sneezing, they’ve got COVID.”
Adwin Town, of the Chinese Association of Victoria, said imposing stricter rules, such as mandatory quarantine, on travellers from China would be unfair and discriminatory.
“If you only isolate and only pinpoint on one country [the need for quarantine] because of what they do or what they think, that is unfair,” Town said. “We should have a more satisfactory reason to execute such a restrictive process.”
The United States has announced mandatory COVID-19 tests on travellers from China beginning on January 5. 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 Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans should reconsider travel to China, Hong Kong and Macau.
It would also apply to passengers from China who enter the US through a third country, or who connect through the US to other destinations, The New York Times reported.
India has mandated a COVID-19 negative test for travellers arriving from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand, its health minister said. Passengers from those countries will be put under quarantine if they show symptoms of COVID-19 or tested positive.
Japan will require a negative test on arrival for travellers from mainland China from midnight on December 30. Those who test positive will be required to quarantine for seven days.
Italy earlier mandated tests for all travellers coming 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.
Taiwan said all passengers arriving on direct flights from China, as well as by boat at two offshore islands, would have to take PCR tests on arrival from January 1.
Malaysia announced new tracking and surveillance measures for those who test positive, while South Korea is requiring virus tests for visitors from China. Officials in Britain are expected to decide on Thursday (London time) if tests will be required.
Lunar New Year, which begins on January 22, is usually China’s busiest travel season. Officials said on Tuesday they would resume issuing passports for tourism for the first time since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
Italian authorities are also sequencing the Milan tests to see if there are new variants, the Health Ministry said. If a new strain is found, officials may impose stricter curbs on travel from the country.
Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by COVID in early 2020.
While the high rate of passengers with the virus has put authorities on alert, one factor in Italy’s favour is its high vaccination rate. More than 80 per cent of people are fully inoculated, according to the World Health Organisation, and many have also received booster shots. It’s a similar story across much of Western Europe.
In Germany, health authorities were “closely watching” the situation, according to Health Ministry spokesman Sebastian Guelde.
“We have no indication that a more dangerous mutation has developed in China that would give rise to a declaration of a virus variant area, which would result in corresponding travel restrictions,” he said.
The French Health Ministry was also monitoring developments, and said it was “ready to look at all useful measures that could be put in place as a consequence, in collaboration with France’s European partners”.
Early in the pandemic, the US barred entry to foreigners travelling from China, weeks after the virus first emerged there three years ago. Americans were allowed to return home and flights from China were funnelled to selected airports where passengers were screened for illness.
But the virus was already spreading in the US among people with no travel history.
With Reuters, Bloomberg
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