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Border chaos tipped as Queenslanders race clock to get home by midnight

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Gold Coast and Tweed residents will be able to move freely within their own border bubble while truck drivers carrying freight and essential workers will be among the only road users allowed to cross into Queensland when the state’s border slams shut at 1am Saturday.

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All other road traffic will be shut out, including Queenslanders trying to return home after the 1am deadline who will, instead, have to drive back to an airport and fly into the state then go into self-funded quarantine.

The restrictions have triggered a rush of Queenslanders returning home to beat being turned around at the border or sent to mandatory quarantine.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said there were no new cases in Queensland overnight.
“But it’s too soon to relax, far too soon, we’ve got to be really careful and diligent as we go forward,” she said.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the state was on high alert for the risk of a second wave.
“We’ve seen in other states that it can only take one case to see a widespread community outbreak,” he said.
“It is clear now that Australia is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 and we cannot afford to have that second wave in Queensland.”

Continuous lines of traffic, many towing caravans, snaked through the Gold Coast from early Friday after waiting for hours to cross border checkpoints. Under the lockdown only residents from Ormeau on the northern Gold Coast to Brunswick Heads in the Tweed Shire will be able to travel freely over the border – but they cannot travel outside the restricted bubble zone.

Gold Coast police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said residents who stepped outside the border zone would not be allowed back in the state. It meant Tweed residents were restricted from travelling north of the Gold Coast, while all border zone residents were barred from venturing south of Brunswick Heads for either work or leisure.

“If you live in the Tweed Shire and on the weekend, for instance, go down to Lennox Head surfing, you will not be allowed back into Queensland,” Wheeler said.

“I think people have to realise this is a hard border closure. So it’s exception rather than the rule that people are able to come into Queensland. This is really serious.”

Truck drivers, essential workers, and people travelling to Queensland for essential medical care, will be exempt from the tough new restrictions. Queensland has declared NSW, the ACT and Victoria as COVID-19 hotspots, forcing the state into the tight border lockdown.

NSW remains on a knife’s edge in its fight to contain the virus, with a new cluster identified in the Sydney city and inner west. A man tested positive on Thursday, after visiting a number of venues including a busy shopping centre in Penrith, and contact tracers have been unable to identify the source of the man’s infection.

North of Sydney, two Newcastle schools have been closed for deep cleaning, thousands of the city’s residents have gone into self-isolation, and three members of one family have tested positive in a mystery cluster of the virus.

The number of cases in Victoria continue to spiral, with 451 cases overnight after 471 new cases were recorded Thursday and eight deaths.

Young said Queenslanders would have to wait until Monday to find out whether the state had escaped a potentially disastrous second wave of COVID-19.

She said freight carriers were among the only exceptions to the Queensland travel blockade, but truck drivers would have to be tested every seven days. “We have to have freight workers operating … we’re the food bowl of Australia, we need them to take freight into Victoria and bring it back,” she said.

“We know that is a risk, but the risk of not having food or produce is higher.” Young said the truck drivers did not have to go into self-isolation while waiting for results but needed to minimise contact with people in hotspots.

In the past 24 hours,73 flights have arrived in Queensland with 3,393 passengers checked, 42 put into quarantine and 12 refused entry.

On roads, 6,223 vehicles were checked Thursday. There were 68 people refused entry and 54 have gone into quarantine.

There will also be traffic disruption in Brisbane on Saturday, when refugee advocates plan to protest on the Story Bridge. Police have been considering court action to stop the blockade but are preparing to be out in force to take action against non-compliant protesters.

Miles said if the protest led to any new cases of COVID-19, it would undermine plans to ease aged care restrictions imposed after the Logan cluster was identified last week.

“That’s what’s at stake here, whether hundreds of Queenslanders can have their families visit them in their nursing homes or not,” Miles said.

Young said the protest would undermine the work done to close the borders and clamp down on the Logan cluster, including the record number of people being tested each day.

Queensland initially had a target of 5,000 tests each day, with a capacity of 10,000 a day, but in the past 24 hours tested 16,183. Miles said that provided some confidence that there was not undetected community transmission. No new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Queensland on Friday.

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