There has been chaos on Queensland’s southern border in the hours before it finally reopened to millions of Australians at midday on Friday.
Motorists were told to expect delays of up to three hours as vehicles queued for up to 20 kilometres back into NSW ahead of the reopening.
In Brisbane, travellers flying into the airport from interstate were allowed to disembark planes but faced at least an hour’s wait before they could leave the terminal. Some flights were delayed to help avoid passenger traffic jams.
“Patience will definitely be a virtue today,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told ABC Breakfast on Friday.
“We know there will be lengthy delays. I have been saying all week to everybody, please plan your journey. Don’t be rushing across the border today because you will be sitting in the traffic for hours. If you can delay your journey, delay it.”
The borders were closed in mid-March to help quell the spread of the coronavirus.
Friday’s reopening allows travel into Queensland for everyone except Victorians. They remain banned, unless they can prove they have spent at least 14 days outside their home state.
By early Friday, almost 314,000 people had downloaded the entry declarations required to cross in Queensland.
Worried Queenslanders have also been reporting vehicles with Victorians plates in some towns – including rumours of holidaying Victorians planning to sneak through back roads into the state.
Childers police sergeant Geoff Fay said the rumours had tied up resources and created unnecessary hysteria.
“Just because someone sees a vehicle with a Victorian registration plate travelling down the highway doesn’t mean to say that they should not be in the state,” he told the ABC.
Sometimes, they were driving hire cars and, in other cases, they had the necessary permits or were already in Queensland when the border closed in March.
Back in the state’s south police told travellers making a beeline for the border on Friday to expect major delays for some days – and said drivers should make sure they had food and water in their vehicles.
“We anticipate extensive delays at the major checkpoints. These delays could be more than a couple of hours, with queues potentially up to 20 kilometres long,” Tweed Byron Police Commander Superintendent Dave Roptell told The Gold Coast Bulletin.
NSW school holiday-makers were expected to make up a large portion of incoming tourists.
Some northern and western NSW towns – including Bourke and Lightening Ridge – have also reported dealing with a log-jam of caravaners waiting for Queensland to open up.
The money they will spend in the Sunshine State will provide welcome relief for tourism operators and the hospitality sector, which have suffered huge economic losses during the 15-week border lock down.
Virgin Australia has launched a major sale, offering more than half a million discount fares to Queensland destinations, including Brisbane, Cairns, the Gold Coast, Hamilton Island and Townsville.
For Victorians, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the indefinite ban would remain – unless they can prove they’ve spent two weeks elsewhere before trying to enter Queensland.
“As long as it takes,” she told the Nine Network on Friday, when asked how long Victoria would remain on Queensland’s reject list.
“I hate to say that, but it’s as long as it takes until the community transmission there is under control.”
Queensland has only two active coronavirus cases and there is no evidence of community transition, chief health officer Jeannette Young said on Friday.
“I think we all need to commit that if any of us get any symptoms that we just immediate get tested, do our best to maintain social distancing, and that at this point in time, that we don’t go down to Victoria or overseas,” she’s told ABC radio.
Victoria has more than 3000 cases, after days of triple-digit increases.