Queensland could move to reopen its border with NSW far sooner than expected as the chief health officer considers slashing the coronavirus target in half.
Dr Jeannette Young is considering a rule change that will require NSW to go just 14 days, rather than the current 28 days, without community transmission of COVID-19 before Queensland reopens the border.
She will reportedly mull the change after lobbying from Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind, according to Nine News.
But Dr Young said she wouldn’t rush ‘a critical decision’ when the border restrictions are reviewed at the end of the month.
Queensland could move to reopen its border with NSW far sooner than expected. Pictured: Motorists are stopped at a checkpoint at Coolangatta on the Queensland-New South Wales border on August 7
‘We’re still concerned that in the past four weeks there have been 14 cases in NSW of which the cause of transmission is unknown,’ she told AAP in a statement on Wednesday.
‘For a lot of people at home, it might seem like the pandemic is almost over but in reality, Monday was a record day worldwide for COVID-19 cases.
‘We’ve all done so well to protect Queensland and we can’t let our hard work and sacrifices go to waste by rushing a critical decision.’
The state’s Labor government has been under sustained pressure from federal, interstate and local political rivals to ease border restrictions since the pandemic began.
A relaxation of the criteria could allow Queensland to reopen to NSW and the ACT much quicker than previously thought, and potentially in time for Christmas.
It could also make it easier for the federal government to get its proposed national hotspot system up and running.
Dr Jeannette Young is reportedly considering a rule change that will require NSW to go just 14 days, rather than the current 28 days, without community transmission of COVID-19 before Queensland reopens the border
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian previously labelled Queensland’s 28-day requirement a ‘tall order’.
‘The guideline that’s been set by the Queensland government in relation to when they reopen their border is a pretty tall order,’ she said.
‘I don’t know anywhere on the planet where a society could function productively during a pandemic and get an assurance you’re going to (get) zero cases of community transmission.
‘If you have confidence in your health system, confidence contact tracing is something you can do within your state, there shouldn’t be a reason for you to keep your border closed given the low rates of community transmission currently in NSW.’
Dr Young said she wouldn’t rush ‘a critical decision’ when the border restrictions are reviewed at the end of the month. Pictured: A motorcyclist is stopped at the checkpoint at Coolangatta on August 7
NSW recorded just seven new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, including four in hotel quarantine.
Two of the cases were linked to a known case or cluster, while one case remains under investigation.
Under the current rules Queensland’s border is closed to visitors from NSW unless they live in a border region or have an exemption on economic or compassionate grounds.
All visitors from NSW, the ACT and Victoria have to go into mandatory 14-day quarantine at their own expense upon arrival in Queensland.
The state has no restrictions on visitors from South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania or the Northern Territory.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian previously labelled Queensland’s 28-day requirement a ‘tall order’. ‘The guideline that’s been set by the Queensland government in relation to when they reopen their border is a pretty tall order,’ she said
It comes as South Australia lifted their COVID-19 border restrictions with the ACT.
From Wednesday, travellers who fly into SA from Canberra will no longer be required to quarantine for 14 days.
However, the quarantine arrangements will continue for people from NSW amid continuing concern over community transmission of the virus in that state.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said SA’s decision was good news and a practical move to ‘decouple’ the ACT from NSW.
‘We’ve been working patiently and diplomatically behind the scenes to get this decision today,’ he said.
‘On a national level, it’s a significant step towards the restarting of domestic aviation in Australia.’
Mr Barr said he expected considerable demand for new flights from Canberra to Adelaide.
People who do make the trip will need to pre-register online and will be asked to sign a declaration that they have not travelled to either NSW or Victoria in the previous two weeks.
SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said a similar decision on border rules with NSW was not possible at this stage.
‘We’re hopeful that the situation will continue to improve,’ he said.
But the commissioner said the ‘level of comfort’ South Australian officials had with the situation in the ACT did not yet translate to NSW.
Local officials would like to see a two-week period with no community transmission, depending on the source of any new cases.