Queensland’s borders will stay shut until at least July, and possibly until September, despite growing calls to reopen them as Australia’s coronavirus infections continue to fall.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian blasted Queensland’s tough stance on Monday.
“We have to get real to the fact many parts of the world will remain closed for a long period of time,” she said.
“But if we in Australia can at least open up our internal borders, I think that will help everybody.”
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro also chimed in as did federal tourism minister Simon Birmingham, arguing regional and interstate travel needed to get restart soon.
“That’s crazy. We’ll need to open in the next few weeks,” Mr Barilaro told Sydney’s 2GB radio.
“By June we need to start opening the regions up, otherwise some of our small businesses will never start again.”
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham also urged the states to relax border controls as COVID-19 infections fell.
“If one or two states were to hold out, they will be answerable to their tourism industry and will need to provide additional support to that industry,” he told Sky News on Monday.
There are 7045 cases of COVID-19 in Australia, with nine new infections overnight – in Queensland (two), Victoria (six) and NSW (one). The national death toll is 99 with the death of a man in his 60s in NSW.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, the group looking for a global vaccine, weighed in on border control on Monday.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, board member Jane Halton said the Australian economy didn’t work “in hermetically sealed spheres”.
“Within the bounds of what is sensible, from a medical and other perspective, enabling businesses to move products around, enabling workers – to the extent that they can safely – to return to work, including if that means travelling across borders, I think is a sensible thing to do.
“I’m personally not convinced that our internal borders are the right way to manage our risks,” she said.
But, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told ABC radio on Monday that her state would remain closed to visitors from NSW and Victoria as long as those states had community transmission of the coronavirus.
“I would say that things would look more positive towards September,” she said.
Ms Palaszczuk said she would rely on the advice of Queensland chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, about borders. The closure is reviewed monthly.
Dr Young said Queensland’s borders should remain shut until other states had had two incubation periods without any new virus cases.
“The best case scenario is July, but I think that is very, very unlikely and that is what I have advised the Premier,” she said.
Elsewhere, Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said on Monday he had ordered an independent investigation into the coronavirus outbreak at a Rockhampton aged-care home, to ensure a similar incident never occurred again.
The North Rockhampton Nursing Centre remains in lockdown and dozens of residents have been moved to other facilities after a nurse returned a positive COVID-19 test.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein was also holding firm on strict COVID-19 border controls, even as the island state’s cafes and restaurants began to open under the first wave of eased restrictions.
Tasmania had no new COVID-19 infections on Monday. Despite that, Mr Gutwein said he had no date in mind to ease border restrictions, saying only that it would be “sometime later this year”, depending on public health advice.
And in WA, Premier Mark McGowan reaffirmed that the state’s border would remain closed, but he encouraged locals to explore their own backyard.
“It is a great opportunity to see parts of Western Australia that you’ve never seen before,” he said.
Just three active coronavirus cases remain in WA, where people are returning to offices and cafes under eased restrictions.
No new positive tests were recorded on Monday, leaving the state’s tally at 557.
Victorian takeaway outlets closed
A dozen McDonald’s restaurants across Melbourne’s north and west have been closed and hundreds of workers asked to self-isolate after a delivery driver tested positive for coronavirus.
The Domino’s Pizza outlet in Fairfield, in Melbourne’s inner-north, was also closed after a worker’s confirmed infection.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the “really big concern” about the McDonald’s outbreak was that the driver had no COVID-19 symptoms.
“Any outbreak, particularly where it comes from someone who had no symptoms at all, is obviously a really big concern,” he told Today.
“This spreads really fast. You can feel perfectly fine, have no symptoms and not be unwell in any way.
“[And] that’s why testing is so important. We are heading towards about 250,000 tests in the last three weeks. That is a massive effort. That gives us a real sense of how much virus is out there in the community.”
- See the McDonald’s that have closed here
Health authorities believe the McDonald’s driver was a close contact of an employee at the Craigieburn outlet who tested positive last week.
The fast-food chain said the restaurants were closed out of an “abundance of caution” and no other employees had tested positive.
Victoria had six new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours to Monday morning, its lowest daily number in more than a fortnight.
Two related to the cluster at the Fawkner McDonald’s, which has 12 infections. Three were in people in hotel isolation and the last one was a close contact of a person in home isolation.
Chief medical officer Dr Brett Sutton said that case was in a resident at the Villa Maria Aged Care facility in Bundoora, in Melbourne’s north.
A McDonald’s Australia spokesperson confirmed the closures of the outlets on Monday.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to close and conduct a deep clean of 12 restaurants in Victoria.
“The truck driver made deliveries to 12 restaurants and interacted with a small number of restaurant employees on each occasion while asymptomatic and unaware they had contracted COVID-19.”
The spokesperson said McDonald’s would reopen each of the restaurants after the deep cleans and when workers were available.
Newmarch residents ‘better’ in hospital – operator
The operator of a coronavirus-hit Sydney nursing home where 16 people died admits it would have been easier if infected residents had been transferred to hospital rather than treated on-site.
But NSW Health is standing by the response to the outbreak given numerous elderly and frail people were involved with serious comorbidities, saying the situation was complex.
Some 37 residents and 32 staff at Newmarch House near Penrith have contracted COVID-19 after a staff member worked for six days with mild respiratory symptoms.
Sixteen people have died due to the virus.
Anglicare chief executive Grant Millard said the organisation complied with NSW Health’s containment strategy after the outbreak and anyone who wanted to be hospitalised after contracting COVID-19 was accommodated.
NSW Health’s Dr Kerry Chant said moving residents from their environment risks exposing them to other issues such as falls, disorientation and “then as a consequence get other health issues”.
NSW reported just one new case of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday from some 6000 tests, with six people in intensive care.