Queensland’s border has now closed to anyone from the ACT, NSW and Victoria, as authorities continue to stress the importance of social distancing to prevent another major coronavirus outbreak.
As of 1am on Saturday, anyone from south of the border will be turned around.
More than 140 people have been turned away since the closure came into effect.
Queensland Police Services Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said 142 people – including 18 Queenslanders – were refused entry into the state after the border closed at 1am on Saturday.
“The 18 Queenslanders no doubt were extremely disappointed because there’s going to be considerable cost for them,” he told reporters in Coolangatta on Saturday.
“It’s unfortunate but this is all about stopping COVID-19 coming into Queensland.”
Queensland residents trying to come home from the three areas must arrive by air and pay at least $2800 for their two-week stay in hotel quarantine.
Those who fail to comply with the border rules could face an on-the-spot fine of $1334, a court-imposed penalty of up to $13,345 or six months’ imprisonment.
“These new, tough border restrictions are all about keeping Queensland and Queenslanders safe,” Heath Minister Steven Miles said.
“They are all about keeping the virus out of Queensland.”
Queensland appears to have avoided a spike in cases after serious concerns about two women who acquired coronavirus in Melbourne and spread it to three others last week.
So far, only five cases of coronavirus have been connected to the Logan women, but Queenslanders are being told now is not the time to relax.
There are a total of 11 active cases statewide.
There were reports of two-hour delays crossing the border northbound in the lead-up to the closure, while thousands were caught in heavy traffic at crossing points in the Tweed region on Friday.
Locals from 41 postcodes along the border will need a pass to cross in and out of Queensland, but must not travel beyond their local area.
People from non-hotspot locations can fly in or enter via the Northern Territory border.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said there was still a risk of community transmission this weekend, even with the border closed to some 14 million Australians.
“We can start to think we might be able to relax at the start of next week if we have another two days of no new community acquired cases,” she said.
“It’s too soon to relax, it’s far too soon — we’ve still got to be really, really careful and diligent as we continue to go forward.
“So please, we can’t yet relax this weekend. It is really important if anyone is unwell, or develops any symptoms, to isolate and get tested.
“This weekend is critical, it will be a tough decision to make on Monday [easing restrictions] if we have seen large breaches of my directions — then I will have to take that into consideration about the advice I give the community.”
The government will review the border closure at the end of August.
The developments come as a planned mass sit-in on Brisbane’s Story Bridge was postponed at the 11th hour.
Mr Miles had warned people to stay away from the protest amid fears it could spark a wave of local infections, and described organisers as “selfish”.
In a statement posted online, Refugee Action Collective Queensland said the language police had used in recent days was “deeply concerning”.
“They said they’d respond with ‘full force’ and they’ll be ‘exhausting all their resources to stop this protest going ahead’ – these are dog whistles for police violence, repressive tactics like chemical weapons, and the riot squad moving in to assault peaceful community members.”
The group said police spent Friday trying to find and arrest organisers.
“We can’t let police threats of violence and arrest deter us from taking action against injustice,” the group said.
“But we always want to centre the safety of the people coming to our actions and our friends inside that illegal prison.”
The protest is planned for August 15 if a meeting with the Australian Border Force doesn’t go ahead and their demands aren’t met.
About one thousand people had flagged their intention on Facebook to attend the action, with a further 2000 people interested.