All travel restrictions within Queensland, except for remote Indigenous communities, have been lifted from midday today. Pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants will also be allowed more patrons, and accommodation will be available for non-essential travel.
Online booking service Wotif.com recorded a 130 per cent spike in interest in Queensland on Sunday, when the relaxation was announced, compared to the Sunday before.
Palaszczuk joined MPs and local tourism representatives in Cairns this morning to declare Queenslanders had “so much to explore”. She will make similar visits to other tourism hotspots in the coming weeks.
“We’re kickstarting tourism right across Queensland,” the Premier told reporters at the Cairns marina.
With 28,000 jobs reliant on tourism and hospitality, Palaszczuk emphasised the Government had listened to their concerns and had eased restrictions as soon as health advice allowed.
Her comments came as Queensland health officials gave evidence before a state parliamentary inquiry into the government’s response to COVID-19. Restrictions on the NSW border remain contentious and could potentially be lifted as early as mid-July.
Reflecting on the pandemic, Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young today said the initial increase in COVID-19 cases was so “terrifying” that it warranted swift and decisive action in Queensland.
“It was out of control,” Young told the committee, noting also the risk presented by overseas and interstate travel.
In recent weeks, there have been multiple days of zero new infections in Queensland. On Monday morning, there had been no new cases overnight, with the tally remaining at 1,058.
Queensland Health director-general John Wakefield said even with the benefit of hindsight, he believed the measures had saved thousands of lives and would allow for an “earlier and more resilient economic recovery”.
Wakefield, however, was “acutely aware” of the economic impact of bans and restrictions, saying “this burden rests heavily on our shoulders”.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind said the economic impact of the pandemic, and associated restrictions, had been “profound” and extended beyond business losses.
“It’s livelihoods that have stalled, livelihoods that have stopped,” Gschwind said.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones today met with Destination Gold Coast boss Paul Donovan to discuss implications of restrictions being lifted on Gold Coast businesses.
“We’re urging Queenslanders to come down to the Gold Coast and support local businesses,” Jones said.
“Eat at a local restaurant, grab a coffee and stay at a local hotel. We know that Queenslanders are itching to get out and about again. That’s exactly what we’re encouraging them to do.”
Palaszczuk held talks on the Gold Coast last week, where the Mayor, Tom Tate, backs the decision to keep the NSW border closed so long as there are health concerns. The restrictions will be reviewed at the end of June, and may still depend on NSW and Victoria being able to reduce the number of new infections in those states.
“They are definitely shut for the month of June,” Palaszczuk said today.
Young told the committee a National Cabinet meeting in a fortnight would discuss the epidemiology, nationally, as any border changes would also “depend on what is happening across the nation”. She appeared to suggest the criteria for change was under review.
Donovan said the border should only be opened “when safe” and he hoped theme parks could soon be reopened.
But he said many Gold Coast businesses were already fielding an increase in bookings and expected the situation to only improve.
“Just up the road we have more than two million people in Brisbane who we know are looking for a break – they’ll be our first target market,” Donovan said.
“This is a good result. It means we can start our marketing early, fine-tuning our message in the intrastate market so we can try to get a jump on other states when interstate borders are opened.”
Data from Wotif showed a surge in interest in other destinations, with hits on Rockhampton up more than 70 per cent, followed by Mackay, Daintree, Port Douglas, all up by 50 per cent or more.
“Our data shows many are looking for a quick break and some relaxation away from home after being in lockdown,” said Wotif managing director Daniel Finch.
Long-distance recreation trains the Spirit of Queensland and Spirit of the Outback remain on a restricted timetable.
A spokeswoman for Qantas and Jetstar, who have reduced flights in Queensland, said the group would be “closely monitoring bookings on intra-Queensland routes and will add capacity where we see demand”.
Cruise ships are unlikely to return to local routes and full capacity any time soon; five of Queensland seven COVID-19 deaths were among returning cruise ship passengers.
While the lack of traffic on the roads during the restrictions led to an increase in speeding, in some areas, the Queensland Police Service today renewed its road safety warnings in anticipation of more traffic.Jump to next article