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Tests, shots, masks: Christmas travel plans slowed down by Omicron

The dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases across Australia, which comes just two days before Christmas, is causing travel chaos and seeing some states reintroducing restrictions.

The dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases across Australia, which comes just two days before Christmas, is causing travel chaos and seeing some states reintroducing restrictions.

A survey commissioned by the Tourism & Transport Forum earlier this week found four out of five Australians have now either cancelled or are undecided over their summer holiday travel plans, while one in two has no confidence in travelling interstate.

Those who are determined to travel are queuing for hours for PCR tests, waiting up to 72 hours for results, struggling to get their hands on rapid antigen tests and even being turned away at the border; forced to cancel family reunions and expensive holidays, in what can only be described as Christmas chaos.

Many Australians could even end up spending the festive holiday period alone in isolation after being exposed to a COVID-19 case even, as governments insist Christmas won’t be cancelled.

Gold Coast, QLD
Coolangatta, Queensland.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said COVID-19 case numbers will continue to rise as the more infectious Omicron variant spreads throughout the state.

“We will see an escalation of cases like we are seeing in other states,” she said from the Gold Coast on Thursday. 

It comes as a new mandate is enforced in the state, with mask requirements for theatres and cinemas as well as workers in hospitality venues.

Ms Palaszczuk is pleading with Queenslanders to go beyond the mandated rules and wear masks when inside public areas.

“When you are going indoors, please mask up,” Ms Palaszczuk.

The tighter rules follow the state hitting the 90 per cent threshold for first-dose vaccinations on Wednesday, according to federal government data.

NSW Sydney
Sydney Harbour. Image: Destination NSW

IN NSW, the Minister for Customer Service and Digital Victor Dominello announced the government had changed its mind on mandatory check-ins to venues across the state.

“Given the increasing Omicron numbers we’ll revert back to our pre-15 Dec check-in settings,” he tweeted.

Check-ins will be mandatory again at supermarkets, shops and hospitality venues.

However, Premier Dominic Perrottet is still resisting bringing back mask mandates at indoor venues, despite NSW Health urging everyone to wear them in high-risk settings.

The government is also considering providing free rapid antigen tests via mail, as testing clinics are overwhelmed and wait times – both for the test and the result – blow out.

Melbourne-Face-Mask

Victoria has reinstated its mask mandate to try and reduce exposure to the virus over the holidays.

Acting Premier James Merlino said, “So what that means, from 11:59pm tonight, the following additional measures will apply in Victoria … face masks will be required in all indoor settings, except private homes, for persons eight and over.”

“Face masks will also be required at all major events over 30,000 people. Again, to be clear, face masks will be required indoors and outdoors when moving around, although masks can be removed when seated outdoors.”

The acting Premier also confirmed the state would not go into lockdown.

“The promise was if you go and get vaccinated, you can enjoy Christmas and New Year with your families and loved ones and that’s exactly what will happen.”

Source: AAP and ABC