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Test fees to travel interstate dropped

Travellers who require a negative COVID-19 test in order to go interstate will be able to do so for nothing after an agreement was struck between the federal and Queensland government.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Queensland had backed off from plans requiring travellers to foot the bill in order to the enter the popular tourist state, if the tests were done at state-based clinics.

Some nose and throat tests, also known as PCR tests, would set back people $150 per test, leading to concern they would be a financial burden on some families.

Those entering Queensland will require a negative PCR test within 72 hours before they arrive.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said health officials would accept text messages as proof of a negative test, despite previously indicating only certificates would be accepted.

The Commonwealth and Queensland governments had been in dispute over whether travellers would need to pay $150 for the PCR tests to enter the state.

Ms Palaszczuk had been calling for the federal government to enable a Medicare rebate for the tests if they were conducted at a private clinic.

“It’s time the premier apologised for the unnecessary stress she has caused to Queenslanders and those planning to travel there,” Mr Hunt said in a statement.

“The only thing that has changed is that after accepting text confirmation for 18 months and then rejecting it for 24 hours, Queensland is now accepting the same text messages again, dropping their demand for a certificate.”

Queensland border arrangements will come into effect when the state reaches 80 per cent fully vaccinated, or December 17 at the latest.

It is one of several states, including WA, SA and Tasmania requiring travellers to have a negative PCR test before their arrival.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied the government has been held hostage by rogue senators on vaccine mandates, despite the coalition making concessions on the issue.

It comes after the government lowered the claims threshold for compensation from $5000 to $1000 should people develop an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Those who have experienced demonstrable reactions to the vaccine will be able to claim the money to cover lost work and care costs.

The reduction to the Commonwealth’s no-fault vaccine claims scheme was part of an agreement with rebel coalition senator Gerard Rennick.

Senator Rennick had threatened to withhold support from government legislation unless the Commonwealth removed state-based vaccine mandates.

However, Mr Morrison said the government had been working on lowering the threshold for some time.

“We put in place a scheme to provide confidence to the Australian people so they can go forward and get these vaccines,” the prime minister told question time on Wednesday.

“If (the opposition) think that is some sort of pandering to an anti-vaxxer movement, I disagree with them.”

More than 108,000 vaccines were administered nationally on Tuesday, taking the fully vaccinated rate to 85.8 per cent of over-16s.

The Northern Territory detected 11 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday after an infected woman from a community in lockdown evaded police and travelled to a nearby town.

NSW recorded 248 new cases of COVID-19 in the past reporting period, with two deaths.

In Victoria there were 1196 new infections and three deaths, while there were 15 cases in the ACT.

There were zero infections in Queensland, which has three active cases – the lowest number this year.

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