Twice-vaccinated international travellers will be able to fly into Queensland without quarantining for the first time in almost two years from Saturday.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the end of nearly all COVID-19 restrictions on vaccinated international arrivals from 1 am on Saturday, almost two years since the border closed on March 20, 2020.
The change comes before Queensland’s 90 per cent vaccination target is reached, but the premier says the time is right.
The latest figures show 91.65 per cent of those eligible have had one jab, while 88.82 per cent have had two.
Ms Palaszczuk says vaccinated travellers will only have to take a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of arriving in Queensland.
“You can come into Queensland and … if you’re vaccinated you will not have to do quarantine, you are free to come in,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
“We’re asking you to do a RAT test within 24 hours.
“This is consistent with other states — if national cabinet decides to change that down the track, so be it, but we do believe that now is the right time with our vaccination rates so high.”
Ms Palaszczuk said travellers’ rapid antigen tests would not be actively policed but operate as an honour system.
She said the measure was only a precaution as international travellers are “probably more likely to catch the virus in Australia at the moment”.
Unvaccinated international travellers will still need to do mandatory quarantine on arrival in Queensland after Saturday.
The premier also said 11 people had died with COVID-19 and 19,932 new cases emerged in Queensland in the 24 hours to 6.30 am on Wednesday.
The state’s pandemic death toll has now risen to 63, with 56 of those deaths occurring after the domestic border reopened to twice-vaccinated travellers on December 13.
“Any loss is a tragedy and I express my condolences on behalf of the state to the families of the loved ones who have lost their lives under such tragic circumstances,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said of those who died, one was in their 30s, one was in their 50s, two were in their 60s, one was in their 70s, three were in their 80s and the final three were in their 90s.
The youngest was unvaccinated while five were twice-vaccinated and two had had booster shots, but were suffering significant medical conditions.
Dr Gerrard said 835 people were being treated for COVID-19 in Queensland hospitals and another 52 in ICU, with 34 on ventilation.
“It’s clear that the numbers of cases in Queensland hospitals continues to rise, as we have always expected, as we head towards the end of the month,” he said.
The premier said she didn’t believe reopening to international travellers would have a big impact on case numbers in Queensland.
She admitted her state may not be the most attractive destination for travellers at the moment, but perhaps opening the border would give them and airlines clarity for their plans later this year.
“This is good for forward planning, so people might think, you know, in a couple of months time I might go and visit some relatives,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“Or (they might think) in a couple of months’ time I’m going to come and fly into Queensland and visit mum, or dad, or my grandparents, who I haven’t seen for years.”