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NSW virus hotspots join lockout list - six months jail for those who don't comply

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Visitors from NSW hotspots will be locked out of Queensland along identical lines to banned Victorian visitors – with possible jail terms for those breaking the rules.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk gave a grim warning to State Parliament today that Queensland was entering one of the most challenging phases of the pandemic.

As Queensland business and travel were restrictions eased, the threat from interstate was increasing, and Palaszczuk said any complacency in the coming weeks could be deadly.

The Premier said the Queensland-NSW border remained a crucial control point that had so far prevented the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We will not hesitate to take tougher measures, if and when they are needed,” Palaszczuk said.

An outbreak linked to the Crossroads Hotel at Casula has today prompted Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young to add Liverpool and Campbelltown shires to the list of hotspots warranting added precautions. Already, 21 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the south-west Sydney hotel, and Queensland Health has identified another 18 people who had been to the hotel and will be required to self-isolate until given the all-clear.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles told parliament that from midday today, returning Queensland residents who had visited Liverpool and Campbelltown in the previous 14 days would be directed into hotel quarantine. Other travellers would be turned away, as has occurred since Friday in relation to certain travellers from Victoria.

Gold Coast police chief superintendent Mark Wheeler has criticised those travellers trying to subvert the border controls, saying “it’s frustrating, it’s disappointing and it’s selfish, reckless behaviour that poses a danger to our community”.

NSW has not had any hotspots declared by Queensland since mid-May, influencing the decision to ease border restrictions, however all of Victoria has since been declared. The Crossroads Hotel is frequented by truck drivers and motorists.

The stakes are now so high the Government will introduce a six-month jail term as an alternative to the existing $4004 fine for anyone who lies about their movements and seeks to deceive authorities. Miles told parliament it was warranted given the risk of travellers bringing the virus into Queensland.

“If we are not careful, if we do not defend our borders, we risk a second wave here too,” Miles said, adding that he found the Crossroads cluster “most concerning”.

Queensland’s tally of cases remains at 1071, four of those active, with the three new cases over the past fortnight coming from overseas and detected during hotel quarantine. No new cases were declared overnight.

With NSW still on school holidays this week, Miles said mobile testing clinics were being deployed to peak tourist areas: Cairns trialled a clinic on the esplanade at the weekend and three clinics were being deployed across the Gold Coast this week, including Surfers Paradise.

“If we do see a spike in cases our hospitals and staff are ready,” Miles said.

Palaszczuk said Queensland’s strong health response, and the lack of community transmission, had allowed communities and businesses to recover from the pandemic-related restrictions.

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