Queensland will relax its tough border controls within days – except for Victorians, who are enduring a spike in coronavirus infections.
From July 10, Australians from outside Victoria will be able to travel to Queensland simply by filling in a declaration form.
But Victorians, and anyone who has visited the southern state – including Queenslanders returning home – will have to complete a fortnight’s quarantine in a hotel at their own expense.
“Queensland has very large concerns about the state of Victoria,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.
“There’ve been outbreaks in hotels, schools, healthcare, retail and a distribution centre. Due to the current community transmission levels, the border with Victoria will remain closed and will be strengthened.”
Victoria reported 64 confirmed coronavirus infections on Tuesday – after reporting 75 on Monday. It has had 250 confirmed cases in a week amid a 10-day testing blitz across several Melbourne hotspots.
Queensland’s borders have been the subject of controversy since they were closed in the early days of the pandemic. July 10 has been set as the earliest potential opening date for months.
Ms Palaszczuk maintained that stance in the face of intense pressure from federal politicians, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and interstate premiers, particularly NSW’s Gladys Berejiklian. On Tuesday, she said the “border wars” should stop.
“I think a national leader should have been able to bring all of the states and territories together,” she said.
“Frankly, I’m a bit sick that Queensland has been singled out as opposed to South Australia, and Tasmania, just to name a few.”
South Australia and Tasmania (both with Liberal governments) have also imposed hard border closures during the pandemic. Western Australia (with a Labor premier) also did.
“What we have is a bit of a confrontation where fights are being picked at different states and, frankly, I don’t think it’s good enough,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“I’ve been silent for a long time and I will not be silenced for standing up for what I believe to be right.”
She said her primary concern was to protect Queenslanders.
“We believe we have the balance right. We will do everything to preserve Queensland’s good record at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our state,” she said.
Queensland again had no new virus infections to report on Tuesday. Since it last eased COVID-19 restrictions on June 1, it has had just nine cases – seven in returned overseas travellers and two acquired interstate.
Health Minister Steven Miles said that was a stark contrast to the situation in Victoria.
“Today, they surpassed twice the number of total cases as we have had here in Queensland since the outbreak commenced,” he said.
“They’ve had more locally-acquired cases than Queensland has had in total.”
Dr Miles said Queensland was helping Victoria get on top of its outbreak – testing samples from Victorians and sending its deputy chief health officer to help manage the response. The state is also taking expressions of interest for 40 nurses to head south.
“This virus does not respect state borders and so we must enforce them. These new, stricter rules will ensure that we contain the virus in Victoria,” he said.
“Our message to Queenslanders is please do not go there. Our message to Victorians is please do not come here – until these outbreaks are under control.”
Queensland will also ease other restrictions from July 3. They include:
- Wedding ceremonies will be allowed up to 100 people;
- Contact community sports will be allowed, without limits on spectators (who must observe social distancing);
- The one-person-per two-square-metre rule will apply in cafes and pubs, restaurants, surf clubs, RSLs, and other small businesses;
- Casinos will be able to be open;
- Concert venues and theatres will be open 5 capacity or one
person per one-square metre rule;
- Churches and other places of worship will also have more relaxed rules.
Queensland’s tough stance on Victoria echoes other states. On Tuesday, South Australia was the first state to roll back planned border measures.
Premier Steven Marshall said SA might move on NSW and the ACT separately but restrictions on Victorians would remain.
“At this stage, we cannot possibly lift that border [with Victoria)] on the 20th July as we were hoping to do.”
Ms Berejiklian also made it clear Melburnians were not welcome to visit NSW, even if the border remained open.
“I’m very concerned about what’s happening in Victoria,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Do not allow anyone from a hotspot in Melbourne or from greater Melbourne to come into your home – you have the right to say no.”