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'Last chance': $1.5 billion boost to Qld economy from open borders depends on jab rate

Business

Queensland would get a $1.5 billion economic boost through the end of border restrictions on December 17, according to Treasurer Cameron Dick.

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The tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors would be the ones to benefit most from interstate visitors and the announcement was welcome with a sense of relief and eagerness to get on with it.

However there were also concerns about a lack of detail about the changes and compliance needed.

The Treasurer warned businesses that if Covid did hit the state after that date and there were more lockdowns, there would be no financial support or income support for businesses or workers.

“This is the final hurdle and I know Queenslaners working together can get across that challenge,’’ he said.

“At 80 per cent with borders open that will mean an annual net benefit of $1.5 billion for our domestic economy, particularly for tourism, hospitality and entertainment.

“The Morrison Government has made it abundantly clear that financial support for businesses will disappear and income support will disappear.’’

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced Queensland will fully reopen by mid-December even if it hasn’t vaccinated 80 per cent of its population, describing the plan as safe and cautious.

“We have to reunite families, this is fundamental,” she said on Monday, while also vowing to kick the vaccination drive into top gear.

The road map sets out two key dates, the first being November 19.

That’s when new modelling suggests 70 per cent of eligible Queenslanders will be fully vaccinated.

Once that happens, arrivals from interstate hotspots will be allowed in if they are fully vaccinated and come by air. They must also have returned a negative COVID-19 test in the previous 72 hours and spend 14 days in home quarantine.

Fully vaccinated international arrivals on direct flights to Queensland will still have to spent two weeks in hotel quarantine.

The second key date is December 17. That’s when 80 per cent of eligible Queenslanders are expected to be fully vaccinated.

The premier described that date as “locked in”, indicating the second stage of the reopening will proceed even if the 80 per cent target isn’t achieved.

Fully vaccinated arrivals will be allowed in by road and by air, without having to quarantine. But they must still return a negative test within the previous 72 hours.

Fully vaccinated international arrivals on direct flights will then switch to two weeks of home quarantine, if the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee agrees with the plan.

Once Queensland’s vaccination rate reaches 90 per cent, there will be no entry restrictions or quarantine requirements for any travellers, regardless of whether they’ve come from interstate or overseas.

As with other states, fully vaccinated Queenslanders will enjoy more freedoms than those who refuse the jab.

Venues will also be able to let only fully vaccinated patrons in, and then if they choose, relax COVID-safe measures from December 17 or when the 80 per cent target is reached, whichever comes first.

“We will work with industry and business but we expect that there will be some settings and venues that decide to be vaccinated only, and in return, they will have eased restrictions,” Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.

Ms Palaszczuk said the plan was “measured and cautious” and the focus between now and mid-December will be to get every Queenslander vaccinated.

She has ordered her ministers to embark on a statewide blitz to address the significant gap between vaccination rates in Brisbane, compared with regional and remote communities.

“We are one state. We need the vaccination rates to increase right across the state,” she said.

Education Minister Grace Grace is also looking at getting vaccination teams into schools, during school hours.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said Queenslanders aged 20 to 39 were the main group yet to be vaccinated. That cohort comprises about 584,000 people or 15 per cent of the state’s eligible population.

There were no new cases of COVID-19 reported on Monday.

Currently 72.5 per cent of eligible Queenslanders have had one dose of a vaccine, and 56.9 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said it was welcome news to finally have a date the industry could aim for.

“It’s the best news we have had in a while. At least we have a target now, we have somewhere to go and we know what it takes to get everyone back together again,’’ he said.

“We will be obviously missing the first few weeks of the holidays at this rate, but to be clear that the Premier did say we could bring these dates forward if we reach those targets earlier.

“If ever there was a possibility of the population giving itself a xmas present this is it.’’

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the plan but said there was still a lot of work to do and detail missing from the Premier’s plans.

Policy and advocacy manager Cherie Josephson said businesses still did not know what conditions and compliance requirements they would have to meet under the new plan.

“Businesses need to know what they’re up against. They need to know how may mandatory vaccine rules in workplaces and business premises will be controlled, if there will any changes to the density limits, restrictions, testing and isolation and hygiene compliance requirements and that contact tracing obligations they will have to meet,” Jospehson said.

She said businesses need those detail now to allow them to invest in staff and assets and to plan to meet the obligations and prepare.

-with AAP

 

 

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