Queensland has warned it won’t necessarily open up to NSW even after the southern state vaccinates 80 per cent of its population for COVID-19.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles’ comments came as hundreds of people gathered at the Queensland-NSW border on Sunday, waving signs reading “open the border now” and “I was born free”.
Earlier, authorities revealed Queensland had recorded another day of zero cases, while NSW reported 830 new local infections and three deaths.
Mr Miles was pressed about whether Queensland might keep its border closed to NSW if cases there remained high after nationally agreed vaccination targets were met.
‘It will depend…’
“We may,” he replied. “It will depend on the situation here and the situation in NSW.”
Deputy Chief Health Officer James Smith said many factors would decide if restrictions were dialled up or down.
“It’s not all about vaccinations, even though vaccinations are very important … the biggest tool in our shed really,” he told reporters.
“It’s not that it’s necessarily the case that we’ll be able to dial back completely on restrictions once we hit desirable vaccination targets.”
But he added: “The higher the vaccination coverage, the greater the improvement we’d expect to see in restrictions.”
Extra Queensland police were sent to back up NSW officers dealing with the protest. Its focus was at Boundary Street, just on the NSW side of the border.
An estimated crowd of 500 people were there and media reports said there were some arrests and scuffles with police.
NSW and Queensland police could not confirm any arrests when contacted by AAP.
Tweed residents, on the NSW side, have been hit hard by Queensland’s decision to ban entry to all but a strictly limited list of vaccinated essential workers.
It had asked NSW to notionally move the border south, to the Tweed River, but NSW refused, saying it would just shift the problem further south.
Meanwhile, Queensland is ramping up efforts to improve contact tracing. From August 30 all taxi, limousine and ride-share operators will be forced to start using QR codes.
The move will enable quick tracing of passengers if there’s an outbreak in a public use vehicle, which happened recently in Cairns when an infected taxi driver was on the job for days.
He did not infect anyone but Mr Miles said it was essential to have a better system to deal with issues like that in the future.
The Taxi Council of Queensland has welcomed the move, saying the industry asked for the change weeks ago. It says drivers will assist passengers who don’t have smart phones.
Queensland now has 39 active virus cases, with 18 in hospital, with work continuing to improve access to vaccinations along the border with NSW.