From midday on Friday, Queensland’s borders will open for the first time since closing on March 25 to stymie the spread of COVID-19, with caravanners and holidaymakers amassing in northern NSW ahead of the border blockades coming down.
Travellers will require identification and a border declaration stating they have not visited Victoria over the previous 14 days to enter Queensland.
Thousands of motorists are expected to travel into and through NSW’s Far North Coast region and NSW Police Superintendent Dave Roptell urged drivers to be patient.
“If you are choosing to cross the border in the next 72 hours, please be aware we anticipate there will be extensive delays at the major checkpoints – these delays could be more than a couple of hours, with queues potentially up to 20km long,” Supt Roptell said in a statement.
“We are working with our counterparts over the border to ensure as smooth a transition to the new border pass system as possible, but we understand this will take time to work through.”
Travellers who cannot prove they have been out of Victoria for at least 14 days will be turned around at the border.
Queensland is opening its borders Friday to all states except declared hot spots.
As Victoria’s second-wave coronavirus crisis continues, the entire state has been declared a hot spot and people who have been in Victoria in the past 14 days are banned from entering Queensland.
“We will be much stricter in applying the exemptions and allowing people to travel here,” Health Minister Steven Miles said.
The ban stops people travelling from Victoria and spending mandatory self-funded two weeks in hotel quarantine in Queensland.
“We have seen a number of people attempt to travel from Victoria and willingly go into that mandatory hotel quarantine where they have to pay for the cost of that hotel quarantine, because they are making the decision that that two weeks and that cost is worth it to get out of Victoria,” Miles said.
“We need to reserve hotel accommodation for people who need to be quarantined, Queenslanders and Australians returning from overseas, Queenslanders returning from Victoria.
“And so we will be much stricter there. That will mean some very hard decisions and that will mean we need the community’s understanding.”
Police, government and health officials expect extensive delays at the border, with more than 238,000 motorists having already obtained a pass in hope of being able to enter Queensland.
Ballina local Ian Sillar told InQueensland the number of caravans and holidaymakers at the northern NSW town had exploded in the past two weeks as Queensland’s border opening approached.
“They’re getting ready to head to Queensland. A month ago we were virtually empty, but in the past week, two weeks or so it’s chock-a-block and there’s more than a few Victorians here,” Sillar said.
Destination Gold Coast chief Annaliese Battista said the imminent opening of the border and anticipated influx was critical for the city’s economic recovery, with many operators already reporting a surge in visits from locals and intra-state travellers during the Queensland school holidays.
“We know there is significant pent-up demand for a domestic getaway and are looking forward to welcoming interstate visitors from NSW and other states back to Australia’s favourite playground,” Battista said.
Holiday parks and tourist accommodation operators across the Gold Coast said they were looking forward to inter-state tourists flocking back to the Gold Coast following a rush of arrivals from within Queensland that had them at close to full capacity during the past two weeks.
Meriton Suites at Broadbeach front office manager James Callan said “locals had obviously come out to play” with weekend bookings already at 70-80 per cent capacity. “It’s already been such a turnaround with local business, the border opening will be the bonus,” Callan said.
Gold Coast Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said changes to border restrictions at Gold Coast entry points aimed to protect Queensland from community transmission being experienced in other states.
“Although we’re open, anyone who has been in a COVID-19 hot spot in the last 14 days will no longer be able to quarantine in Queensland and we will turn them away at our border,” Wheeler said.
“That applies to everyone who has been in a COVID-19 hot spot in the last 14 days with the exception of people who normally reside in Queensland or people who are needed in Queensland for essential purposes. Those people will have to go into quarantine at their own expense.”
Wheeler said it was up to travellers to prove they brought no COVID risk to Queensland by not having been within a hot spot in the past 14 days.
“We will need to see some documentation such as accommodation bills, fuel receipts, a photograph with a date and time stamp in a noticeable location. Ultimately it is incumbent upon those people to prove, it’s not the other way around for us to disprove, they need to prove that they’ve been out of Victoria for that 14-day period. If in doubt, we’ll just turn them around.”
Police are also warning anyone planning to enter Queensland to complete their border declaration pass honestly after a 43-year-old man was fined $4,000 while attempting to cross the border to the Gold Coast on Wednesday.
Police intercepted a bus and spoke with the passenger to verify his border pass and declaration that he was travelling from NSW to Queensland for essential medical treatment.
Police allege the Sydney man was in possession of false identification, did not require medical treatment and had completed the border declaration fraudulently.
Failure to comply with the strict quarantine directions and border restrictions can earn on-the-spot fines of $1334 for individuals and $6672 for corporations.
Providing false information on a declaration or entering Queensland unlawfully could result in a $4003 fine.
-additional reporting AAP
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