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Premier shuts border to NSW, ACT as Victoria records 725 new cases, 15 deaths

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced all of NSW and the ACT will be declared COVID-19 hotspots from 1am Saturday to all-but close Queensland’s southern border.

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Police are struggling to keep up the border checks and will now funnel anyone with an exemption through tougher checkpoints.

After several border breaches involving Queenslanders who had returned home via NSW, and allegations some have flown via the ACT to hide their movements, most north-south travel will now be banned. This extends the cordon to all southern mainland states, only keeping the road border open with the Northern Territory.

While the new restrictions will extend the economic impact of the pandemic, Palaszczuk said the risk of cross-border transmission of COVID-19 was too great to keep the border open.

“Victoria is not getting better and we’re not going to wait for New South Wales to get worse,” Palaszczuk said.

The move comes as health authorities try to ascertain how a 68-year-old woman from the Ipswich region came to contract the virus. Tests on three Logan men who allegedly sought to hide the fact they spent several weeks in Victoria have come back negative however they face further tests to be sure.

Queensland’s COVID-19 tally has risen to 1088, with 11 of those active, after two historic cases were also added.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young urged Queenslanders to also reconsider their need to travel to NSW, Victoria and the ACT. She said anyone allowed back home would be required to enter hotel quarantine, at their expense, for 14 days.

Health authorities in NSW have confirmed 12 new coronavirus infections with the source of one infection unknown.

One of the cases was a returned traveller in hotel quarantine. Ten of the confirmed cases were locally acquired and linked to known clusters, authorities said.

Victoria has recorded 725 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 deaths, including a man aged in his 30s.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Wednesday confirmed the figures, which mark the state’s worst day of the pandemic.

It brings the state’s death toll from the virus to 162 and the national figure to 247.

Of the 15 deaths, 12 are linked to outbreaks at aged care facilities.

The state’s previous record was 723 new cases on July 30, though daily case numbers have consistently been in triple-digits for a month.

Queensland Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said the application process for border passes would be strengthened, and require photo identification. Anyone allowed to travel to Queensland would only be able to do so via flights or by driving from the Northern Territory, with a “hard border” elsewhere open only to freight and other essential traffic.

“We have seen people go to great lengths to avoid our border lockdown,” Miles said.

“People be dishonest, people try to deceive our police, people lying on their border passes and not just at the border but right around the state.”

Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said that with large numbers of travellers still crossing the border, and a minority trying to deceive police, the compliance regime had come under extraordinary pressure.

“We cannot keep this up,” Gollschewski said.

Gollschewski said that, from Saturday, the compliance regime for anyone with an exemption would be strengthened and new arrangements would be introduced for border communities. To everyone else, he warned “don’t come, you won’t be allowed in.”

Palaszczuk said, “the breaches will now stop”. She also reminded journalists that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had refused her request to move the Gold Coast checkpoint south where it might have been better managed.

Reflecting on a week where Queensland had reported nine new cases, Miles said Victoria had also entered a state of emergency and cases being reported in NSW were “creeping north”.

“It is clear now that Australia is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 and we cannot afford to have that second wave here in Queensland,” Miles said.

Miles sought to pre-empt criticism by the Liberal National Party and, separately, Clive Palmer, who is challenging WA border closures. He accused them of playing politics with people’s lives.

However, LNP leader Deb Frecklington – criticised by Labor for repeatedly calling for the border restrictions to be lifted – released a statement to clarify her party’s position ahead of the October 31 election. She welcomed the government’s announcement.

“Queenslanders must be kept safe to protect lives and livelihoods,” Frecklington said, having this week attacked the apparent weaknesses in border controls and called for a crackdown.

“The LNP has always said the border controls are not set and forget. As the situation in other states changes so should our response in Queensland.”

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