Queensland has eased restrictions on travel to and from all NSW border communities, regardless of COVID-19 cases in some, in a further hint the state could be moving towards reopening its borders.
Queensland Health said travel to and from all 17 NSW local government areas in the border zone, which stretches as far south as the Clarence Valley and as far west as the South Australian border, was permitted from Wednesday.
Any resident who has had at least one vaccine dose can cross into Queensland or the border zone for work, education, volunteering, care-giving, healthcare or essential shopping.
The move comes despite some border NSW LGAs having new local virus cases as recently as Tuesday.
The difference now is that most NSW border LGAs have at least 70 or 80 per cent of residents fully vaccinated.
The move is a further hint the Queensland government is planning to reopen the border for fully vaccinated Australians before Christmas.
Earlier this week, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said unvaccinated Queenslanders had “five to six weeks” to get protected against the virus.
Chief health officer Jeannette Young also revealed Queensland Health had modelled reopening at 80 per cent and that state hospitals would be “stretched”, but would be able to cope with the increased demand.
Federal Employment Minister Stuart Robert called on the state government to set some sort of target for reopening the border, so people and businesses could plan for it.
He warned that a lack of any clear target was making it hard to drive up vaccinations in Queensland with only 53.35 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated and 70.59 per cent having had one dose.
“We see in NSW and Victoria, we see very high vaccine rates because there’s a plan, there’s certainty that the citizens of those states know exactly what’s going to happen when certain rates are reached,” Mr Robert told Nine’s Today program.
“That’s our plea to the Queensland Premier, let us know, let Queenslanders know what happens at 80 per cent.
“Let Queenslanders plan for Christmas, because right now we live minute by minute and press conference to press conference.”
Meanwhile, 389 people have started a trial of home quarantine in Queensland, with hopes a successful test run can allow thousands of Queenslanders currently stuck interstate to get home.
The government has said that if successful, the trial will be opened up to other Queensland residents.
Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the trial, which is open only to people who fly into Queensland, could possibly be extended to those who are driving into the state.
“Look, it is no doubt that this is very tight, it is a trial, as Jeannette Young said we want to see how this goes,” he said.
“We are quite confident that people will do the right thing and if we can prove that this system works effectively, I am sure we can review what restrictions really need to be in place and which ones can be eased.”
Queensland had no new local virus cases and four overseas-acquired infections in hotel quarantine on Wednesday.