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Sorry episode: Minister's apology for test unrest, but saves swipe for Hunt

Politics

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath has officially apologised for the weeklong confusion over the cost of controversial COVID-19 tests but in doing so took another swipe at her Federal counterpart.

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Speaking on Friday, D’Ath also admitted that she had not spoken to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt in the past three to four weeks, despite the issue of $150 PCR virus tests dominating the agenda for a week.

“I am happy to apologise. There was a lot of confusion around this,” D’Ath told reporters at a morning press conference.

When pressed further on the political blame game over the now resolved issue of who should pay for PCR tests for people coming into Queensland from virus hotspots, D’Ath said: “I have just given you an apology. We have provided clarity. The Commonwealth have provided clarity.

“It was clarified … We have admitted there was confusion. We have clarified that and we have apologised. I don’t know what else we can do other than get on with the job of getting people vaccinated.”

D’Ath’s comments came at the end of a week which began with Queensland standing firm on the need for everyone coming in to the State to pay personally for a $150 PCR test and which ended with the Federal Government announcing the cost would be split 50/50 between the State and Commonwealth.

This was after Queensland agreed to accept a text message as proof of a negative test, rather than a laboratory certificate, which the Federal Government says it what cost the money.

And Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she had not spoken personally to Greg Hunt, saying that was her Health Minister’s domain.

Asked on Friday about the last time she had personally conversed with Hunt, the Health Minister admitted it was up to a month ago.

And despite Palaszczuk saying on Thursday the issue was finished, D’Ath was not keeping silent.

“If you are going to criticise not picking up the phone and not talking to someone, the first involvement from the (Federal) Health Minister was him advising the media he had sent me a letter when I hadn’t even seen that letter,” D’Ath said.

“It was Scott Morrison who came out swinging and didn’t try to clarify, just criticise,” she said, adding that other Coalition Ministers had also done the same.

Queensland announced there were no new COVID-19 cases on Friday and  85.57 per cent of the State had now received the first dose of the vaccine and 74.93 per cent were double vaccinated.

D’Ath said the State was on track to hit 80 per cent double dosed within the Government’s December 17 timeframe, which would mean the borders would open for those who are fully vaccinated and have a negative PCR test.

But she said Queensland could not “open up the floodgates” and let everyone into the State, saying that people were still losing their lives in New South Wales and Victoria from the virus. Those two States had recorded 9526 cases in the past week.

“At the 80 per cent mark, 20 per cent of our population is unvaccinated,” D’Ath said. That figure does not include children under 12, who are not eligible for vaccines, and those over 12 who have yet to receive a second dose.

“We owe it to those kids who can’t get vaccinated or who haven’t had the opportunity to get fully vaccinated yet,” D’Ath said.

Acting Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Peter Aitken said Queensland was due to hit 75 per cent double vaccinated on Friday and there had been no infectious cases in the community for the past 14 days.

There are currently 4681 people in home quarantine who arrived in the State since rules were relaxed when the State hit the 70 per cent double vaccinated mark recently.

Authorities conduct random checks to ensure home quarantine rules are followed.

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