A border town mayor is calling on the Queensland and NSW governments to shift border checkpoints south and to lift the latter state’s regional lockdown to reunite his community.
Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry’s call came after images emerged of local residents celebrating Father’s Day at the closed Queensland-NSW border on Sunday.
Many families brought picnics to share across the orange road barriers that line the border, while hugs were also shared.
Cr Cherry thanked police for their compassionate approach – with officers encouraging social distancing but stopping short of breaking up the reunions – but said the images were heartbreaking.
“What we saw was the tip of the iceberg of the thousands of people and families that this is affecting,” Cr Cherry told Nine’s Today on Monday.
She said the ongoing toll on local people’s mental health and the economy from the border closure, which Queensland implemented in late July, had been devastating.
“Nobody with a heart could look at what happened yesterday and not think that something has to be done and urgently,” Cr Cherry said.
“These are our families’ lives that are being affected like this. I know people are suffering all over the state and I don’t want to take anything away from that, people are hurting everywhere, but this is an area that hasn’t had COVID for more than 12 months.”
The mayor is calling for NSW to lift regional lockdown in the area and for border checkpoints to be moved south to include Tweed Heads in a border bubble zone administered by Queensland police.
The NSW has already ruled out that option, saying it would create even more administrative difficulties for Tweed Shire residents who live outside Tweed Heads.
“The MPs all along the northern rivers region here and joined by the Gold Coast MPs are still calling for those border checkpoints, so the COVID checkpoints to be moved further south,” Cr Cherry said.
“Whether that’s Tweed Shire or the whole northern rivers – that’s our main aim.
“Obviously I joined with the other northern rivers mayors on Friday to have a joint call out for NSW government to release us from the regional lockdowns because of the lack of COVID cases that we have,” she said.
“There’s a lot of things. We’re also asking if they could tighten up those exemptions that come up from Sydney because that’s the last thing that we need at the moment.”
Meanwhile, Queensland Health is still trying to track down up to eight people who were in a nail salon at Beenleigh with a known COVID-19 case, a 46-year-old truck driver, last Monday.
Chief health officer Jeannette Young said the people failed to use the government’s check-in app and might still be in the community while infectious.
“I’m very worried that there are a lot more people who went and attended last Monday morning and we need to get hold of you,” she said on Sunday.
“We’re using the check-in data that we’ve got, but it’s not enough.”
Another close contact of the truck driver was recorded as a locally-acquired case on Sunday.
She is the mother of a four-year-old girl, who also caught the virus from the truckie, and was in home quarantine when she tested positive.
Queensland has placed more than 1000 families in home quarantine after they may have been exposed to the girl at a primary school and a daycare centre in the Beenleigh area.
Meanwhile, a NSW truckie and a Qantas pilot who lives at Kingaroy but flew from Brisbane to Hong Kong to Melbourne, have both tested positive after arriving in other states.