News State QLD News ‘Fingers crossed’ as Queensland prepares to open border
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‘Fingers crossed’ as Queensland prepares to open border

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Queensland can expect more COVID cases when it opens to visitors from virus hotspots, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned. Photo: Getty
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Queensland’s Premier says it is time to put criticism of border closures “behind us” as the state prepares to reopen to all of Australia at once for the first time in 229 days.

The state will scrap quarantine for all fully vaccinated domestic travellers from virus hotspots who test negative to COVID-19 from 1am on Monday.

It came as Queensland confirmed another local coronavirus infection on Tuesday.

The Gold Coast resident is linked to existing cases and recently travelled to NSW. He spent several days in the community while infectious and is believed to be the source of the recent cluster in the area.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said exposure sites were likely to be listed later on Tuesday.

But from next Monday, there will be no restrictions on travellers to Queensland who have not recently visited hotspots. It will be the first time the state has been open to all Australians since it shut its border to greater Melbourne on April 28.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has refused to say if she regrets the state’s long run of border closures, particularly those preventing end-of-life visits.

“It’s been difficult for everybody. My job has been to keep Queenslanders safe, and whilst I might have been criticised in other parts of the country, people in my state have not been critical,” she told Nine’s Today program on Tuesday.

“Now is the time we all put that behind us and we look forward to reuniting loved ones and having a beautiful Christmas together.”

Ms Palaszczuk expects the state’s COVID cases to rise as travel restrictions ease, but said it was too early to forecast likely numbers.

She said it would be different for Queenslanders, who are used to “doughnut days” and hearing of zero cases.

Asked if the state would be open for good from Monday, Ms Palaszczuk said: “We hope so”, and visitors should be confident.

“We are not shutting the border. We believe that we have the right measures in place and we have the high rate of vaccination,” she said.

“It is completely different to a year or two years ago when people didn’t have the vaccination rates as well as they have today.”

With 78.67 per cent of Queenslanders over the age of 16 fully vaccinated, Ms Palaszczuk said, and 87.37 per cent having had at least one dose, the state should be ready.

“Under the national plan we expect to continue to to keep things going the way they are but, and our vaccination rates are going up as well,” she said.

“I’m very confident that Queenslanders are coming out [and] getting vaccinated. They want to see their family and friends, they want to be able to travel domestically around Australia.

“Fingers crossed, everything goes well.”

However, there remain concerns about low vaccination rates among Indigenous communities in the state, with no community more than 71 per cent fully vaccinated yet.

The area with the highest Indigenous vaccination rate is West Brisbane at 70.51 per cent, while at the other end of the scale just 40.06 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Cairns is fully vaccinated.

Ms Palaszczuk said the state and federal governments had used several programs to drive up vaccination among the Indigenous population.

The state government might need to reimpose some restrictions such as face mask mandates, she said, if outbreaks got large enough.

“People pretty well know when to use them and when not to use them, fingers crossed,” she said.

“A lot of people in Queensland spend a lot of time outdoors. We know that the virus spreads less outdoors and we have a lot of outdoor dining as well, so we are pretty confident with our Queensland settings.”

-with AAP