Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will impose border controls that include travellers being placed in quarantine for two weeks after the state recorded 60 new coronavirus cases in the last day.
- There are now more than 300 COVID-19 cases in Queensland
- The teachers’ union is threatening strike action if schools are not closed
- Queensland cabinet has voted to begin border control measures
The Queensland Government will close the state’s borders beginning midnight Wednesday.
The initial stage of the restriction will force anyone entering Queensland to quarantine themselves for 14 days after arrival.
Authorities will convene in the coming days to establish how road-based restrictions can later be placed along the state’s borders.
But Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said it would be “business as usual” for those commuting between northern New South Wales and Queensland on a daily basis, even after the border closures were in place.
“We have a very close relationship with northern New South Wales — a lot of people live there and work in Queensland and vice versa,” Dr Young said.
“People in northern New South Wales come to Brisbane and the Gold Coast for everything … healthcare, shopping, everything.”
Dr Young said the border closures were in place to stop travellers from other capital cities with high community transition rates visiting remote areas of Queensland.
“We do not want people who are currently in Sydney or in Melbourne who have been exposed to go up to the Whitsundays for instance — we’ve got no cases up there,” she said.
“We want to keep the rest of the state free of the virus as long as possible.”
Freight transport will continue as normal, both in and out of the state.
“We need to bring goods from other states into Queensland — that’s important and Queensland goods need to go from our state to other states,” Dr Young said.
“We are a massive food bowl for our nation.”
But Tweed Shire councillor Warren Polglase said people were confused and concerned about the implications.
“The Queensland Government has created a lot of uncertainty and this is not a time for uncertainty,” he said.
“Roughly 20 to 30 per cent of our population goes north to work in Queensland and about 15 to 20 per cent come from Queensland or work in Tweed.
“There’s cross-border [travel] every day for very many various trades and business people and I don’t know how it’s going to work.”
He said two of the Tweed Shire Council’s senior managers and directors lived in Queensland.
“Are they going to be quarantined once they go over and back, or how are we going to handle that?” he said.
“I think the proposal was made on the run in many ways and I think if the police are asked to police this issue I don’t think they know exactly what to do.”
‘Enough’s enough’ says teachers’ union
Ms Palaszczuk also urged people to “stay in your suburb” but remained adamant schools would stay open.
However, Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) president Kevin Bates called on the State Government to close schools by mid-week, saying he could not rule out strike action if negotiations fail.
Mr Bates said the safety of teaching staff was being put at risk.
“Governments are talking about shutting down all of the businesses apart from essential services, and yet there’s still talk about schools remaining open. Those two things are contradictory,” Mr Bates said.
Mr Bates said he appreciated that medical advice suggested it was OK to keep schools open, but said that: “We can’t see how the logic of that plays out.”
“We don’t accept that you have to have social distancing in terms of closing down parks and beaches and other things but you can have 3,000 students at a school and that is OK.
“What we are saying is, enough’s enough.”
Ms Palaszczuk urged teachers over the age of 60 or those with an underlying health condition to seek advice from their school principal about working from home.
But Mr Bates said teachers had lost faith in the “ad-hoc” approach.
“The words that we know have been used are ‘sacrificial lamb’, ‘glorified babysitters’ — that’s how they’re feeling,” he said.
Ms Palaszczuk said Queensland state schools would remain open but said parents could keep children home if they wished.
“Parents have a choice — if they choose not to send their child to school, that can that make that choice,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“But schools will remain open.
“Also, we know that the school holidays are coming up in a couple of weeks’ time. I want to send a clear message to people to stay in your state, and stay in your suburb. There are no school holidays. It is not about packing up the car and going to the beach for a picnic or going for a swim on the beach.”
Dr Young said schools that recorded a positive case of COVID-19 would have to take their own circumstances into account when deciding whether to reopen.
“Every school has got different arrangements, so you can’t just have one process,” Dr Young said.
“Whether or not the school reopens is up to that school.”
Case tally goes past 300
A total of 319 cases have now been recorded across Queensland.
Dr Young said one patient with COVID-19 was being treated in intensive care, and described that person as “unwell”.
“They are in ICU and are ventilated. I don’t have all the specific details,” Dr Young said.
Dr Young said the sharp rise in cases underscored the importance of adhering to social-distancing measures.
Government staffer tests positive
Meanwhile, it has been revealed contact tracing is underway within a busy Government department after a public servant based in an office in the Brisbane CBD tested positive for COVID-19.
Staff within the Department of Housing and Public Works were updated on the situation in an email from department deputy director-general Trish Woolley a week ago.
“We have traced staff members who have been in contact with this staff member and invoked business continuity arrangements in our service delivery network and senior executive team to ensure we continue to manage the implications of COVID-19 on the delivery of essential services,” she said in the email.
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“It is important to remember, that as part of any trace contacting that occurs, we are not looking for people the person may have passed on the street or in a shop, as the risk in these situations is extremely low.
“The same applies for a passing interaction in an office.”
The ABC understands several staff are still working in the office, despite raising health concerns.
Surge in cases ‘justifies’ venue closures, Minister says
The previous highest daily case total for Queensland was last Thursday, when 50 new patients were announced, with another 40 on Friday.
Health Minister Steven Miles said some hospitals in Queensland had begun rescheduling non-urgent surgeries, and urged people to keep donating blood.
“That is the highest single-day figure we’ve had so far, and it justifies the strong action that the Premier and other national leaders have taken overnight to restrict people from accessing large gatherings and events,” Mr Miles said.
Last night, following a meeting with state and territory leaders, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that from midday Monday places like pubs, indoor sporting venues and churches would be closed.
Mr Miles said Queensland Health had conducted 32,000 tests for COVID-19 so far.
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- ‘Go home and you isolate and you obey those rules’: Chief Medical Officer warns of steep growth in cases