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Don't blame me: How political bickering over virus tests nearly ruined Christmas

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The Covid-19 PCR tests required for travellers entering Queensland will remain free once the state hits 80 per cent vaccination coverage.

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Queensland will scrap quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers who test negative from hotspots in NSW, Victoria and the ACT once it hits the 80 per cent target.

However, there was confusion over who would would have to pay the cost of the test – estimated at up to $150 a person – with furious exchanges for days between the Queensland and Federal government as each blamed the other for politicising the issue.

Finally, both governments clarified overnight that the cost of the tests would be split 50-50 between the state and the federal government provided the test.

The news was met with great relief by tourism operators, who feared the confusion over costs would deter people from visiting Queensland over Christmas.

“I think families will be a lot happier to spend the same amount on a tourism experience and bring themselves a bit of joy, and the industry, instead of spending it on a PCR test,” Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief Daniel Gschwind told the ABC.

At issue was whether Queensland authorities would accept a text message test result, which is the standard in most jurisdictions, or if they needed costlier test certificates.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday morning a text message would suffice before Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe confirmed that in a statement later in the day.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt then confirmed that ongoing 50-50 federal-state funding would apply to the PCR tests needed to enter Queensland.

“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,” he said in a statement on Twitter on Tuesday night.

However, he continued to attack the state government, accusing Ms Palaszczuk of causing “unnecessary stress” for travellers.

Palaszczuk said her government was happy to accept text messages as proof, removing the PCR test cost.

She also denied there had been any confusion about whether a certificate or text message would be accepted upon arrival.

“Minister Hunt says the charge for a PCR test was only when a certificate is required,” she said in a statement.

“Queensland made it plain weeks ago that the text message most people receive after a test is acceptable.

“I am pleased this victory has occurred and people can look forward to being re-united in time for Christmas – without additional cost – as my government had always planned.”

The latest figures show 85.01 per cent of eligible Queenslanders have had one vaccine dose and 74.07 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Palaszczuk earlier on Tuesday admitted the 72-hour PCR test limit would rule out overnight or short trips interstate for most Queenslanders.

“So at the moment going to Sydney for a day or two would be out of the question until we get to that 90 per cent double dose,” she said.

Queensland recorded no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and one in hotel quarantine.

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