The TWU says the clock is ticking for the Federal Government to introduce rapid testing in aviation, after the NSW Government announced it will scrap quarantine for international arrivals from 1 November.
The Union warns that while state borders remain closed now, the eventual easing of border restrictions and allowing international travellers to fly domestically without quarantine or rapid testing will see the virus spread across the country, shaking public confidence in the beleaguered industry and risking future shutdowns.
Last month, the TWU called on the Prime Minister to adopt its COVID-Safe National Transport Roadmap to support the safe reopening of the country. The Roadmap includes calls for rapid testing for all aviation workers and passengers, and a national plan to get skilled workers back into the industry.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said aviation workers were desperate to get back to work after 20 months of debilitating shutdowns and stand downs, but every measure needed to be taken to keep the industry safe.
“After the worst year in the industry’s history, we all want to see international flights resume, but scrapping quarantine requirements without a plan to covid-safe the industry isn’t learning to live with the virus; it’s reckless”.
“Rapid testing must be rolled out industry-wide to reduce the risk of transmission and keep planes in the sky. After over a year without work and with little support from the Federal Government, the last thing aviation workers need is for domestic transmission linked to international arrivals to shut the network down again.
“The Prime Minister must commit to government-funded rapid testing across the network immediately. We cannot see a repeat of the national vaccine rollout shambles where action was finally taken when it was too late. Scott Morrison needs to act on this today”.
Several positive covid cases have been linked to aviation throughout the pandemic, including most recently a Qantas flight between Brisbane and Sydney this week.
The TWU’s Roadmap was endorsed by leading Australian epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman from the University of South Australia, who said it “is a major step forward, and if implemented, would greatly reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.”
Rapid testing is already used in international airports across the world to detect positive cases early, including at London Heathrow and in terminals in the USA, Ireland, Germany and Turkey. Sydney international airport has rapid PCR testing installed with results in just 20 minutes.
The TGA has approved the use of rapid antigen testing at home, with Australians soon able to access the tests from 1 November.