Australia VTL: Sydney replaces on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test with self-swab ART

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Good news for travellers to Sydney. From 31 Dec 2021, you'll be pretty much free from the moment you land, with ARTs replacing PCR testing.

I recently wrote about the testing meltdown that Australian states NSW and Victoria are currently experiencing, a perfect storm of decreased capacity over the Christmas period and a spike in demand from interstate travel and Omicron. 

People who needed a COVID-19 PCR test found themselves having to wait in queues of up to six hours, with results taking three or more days to come back. That posed a particular problem for VTL travellers from Singapore, who need to take a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival and self-isolate until the result is out. 

But here’s some excellent news for those headed to Sydney. NSW is changing the on-arrival testing requirement for international passengers from a PCR test to a self-administered ART, also known as a RAT in Australia (rapid antigen test). 

NSW now accepting self-administered ARTs for on-arrival testing

From 12.01 a.m on Friday, 31 December 2021, fully vaccinated international passengers arriving in NSW must do a COVID-19 ART as soon as practicable, and self-isolate until they receive a negative result (it’s kind of funny they talk about self-isolation, because that’s a period of all of 15 minutes).

For avoidance of doubt, you are permitted to do a self-administered ART.

You must take a rapid antigen test as soon as practicable after your arrival in NSW. A rapid antigen test is a self-test you can do at home. 

-NSW Government

Travellers must also do a second ART on or after Day 6 (the day of arrival is Day 0). 

What kind of ART kits can I use?

ART kits in Australia are overseen by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The TGA has a list of approved home test kits, as well as a copy of the manufacturer’s instructions for each test. 

Two of the kits sold in Singapore pharmacies are accepted in Australia, namely:

  • Abbott Panbio COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test
  • SD Biosensor SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Self Test Nasal

With regards to SD Biosensor, note that it’s the white kit with blue text that’s approved for use in Australia, not the white kit with pink text (Standard Q). I don’t see Flowflex or QuickVue on the TGA’s list, so don’t bring those. 

Kits start from S$4.90 each at pharmacies in Singapore, and I strongly advise you bring them over with you. ART kits are running short in Australia. 

What about Victoria?

Melbourne has also swapped PCR testing for ARTs

Victoria has adopted a similar policy for international arrivals:

  • Take an ART/PCR test within 24 hours of arrival and self-isolate until result is received
  • Take an ART/PCR test between Day 5 to Day 7 (day of arrival is Day 0)

For more information, refer to the article below.

Australia VTL: ART replaces PCR testing for international arrivals to Melbourne

Revised requirements for travel to Australia

With the latest changes, here’s a snapshot of the revised requirements for travel from Singapore to Australia. 

✈️ Summary: Australia  VTL
To Australia 🇦🇺
  • Eligibility: Australian citizens, permanent residents and immediate family, Singapore citizens
  • No restrictions on 14-day travel history
  • Fully vaccinated with a TGA approved vaccine
  • Singapore citizens: Apply for ETA via AustralianETA app (Apple | Android)
  • Complete Australia Travel Declaration 72h before flight
  • Take pre-departure PCR test 72h before flight
  • Take non-stop flight to Australia (Melbourne or Sydney only)
  • Take test on arrival and isolate until negative result received
    • Melbourne: ART/PCR within 24h of arrival; further ART/PCR between Day 5 and 7
    • Sydney: ART within 24h of arrival

Conclusion

Sydney is yours to explore pretty much as soon as you land

International travellers to Sydney will have a much smoother process on arrival now that ARTs have replaced PCR testing. This means no more standing in long queues waiting to be tested, and having the freedom to start your holiday from pretty much the moment you land. 

It’s unfortunate such a policy was not adopted earlier, and I really feel for all the people who spent large portions of their Australia trip in isolation. 

Still, it’s a step in the right direction, and we can only hope that things improve from here on out.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Elti

I believe that the self isolation requirement is to cover the case in which one tests positive.

WLKW

Yea highly possible. Just for whoever is reading this though, I very recently had the unpleasant experience of having my son test positive via the Abbott panbio kit which was used at a CTC for our supervised art. Which by the way I encourage all to take pictures of your used art kits with the ctrl line and the zero test line, before leaving the ctc. The results are manually entered by a human. There is every bit of possibility that either someone entered positive instead of negative when entering the data manually OR apparently my eyes failed me. It… Read more »

Bubbles

Fly to Sydney. Catch COVID. Cancel/delay your return flight. What’s not to like?

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