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A not-so-fond farewell to our 'Great Wall of Coolangatta'

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Police have begun dismantling blockades along the Queensland border, with “the great wall of Dixon St” at Coolangatta, that was the first to feature giant orange barricades to prevent illegal COVID border-hoppers, the first to go.

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From 1am Tuesday, travellers will no longer have to show a pass to cross the border into Queensland after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk declared the state’s borders open to all domestic visitors but residents of Adelaide COVID hotspots.

Gold Coast Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said while the fixed road border checkpoints that have been in place for 249 days are being removed, they will remain ready to be reassembled within 24 hours if borders are again snapped shut due to another coronavirus breakout.

“This isn’t over by a long shot. This is fantastic news that our borders are opening, however, we can’t become complacent,” Wheeler said.

Only visitors from the declared Adelaide hotspots will still be restricted from coming into Queensland. Travellers from Adelaide will only be allowed into Queensland by air and flight arrivals will be scrutinised by police.

Police will continue spot checks along the border to block any travellers attempting to arrive from Adelaide by road.

With the help of automatic number plate recognition cameras, any South Australian-registered vehicle anywhere in Queensland will be intercepted and police will scrutinise whether the occupants of the vehicle had been in a hotspot and when they came into the state.

Wheeler said travellers to Queensland had become accustomed to being greeted by long traffic queues, a major police presence, and massive blockade infrastructure since 26 March.

“We’re really happy that these two communities, Tweed and Coolangatta, can be joined again. This was not something that we wanted to do, of course, but we had to bring effect to the Chief Health Officers direction.

“And it’s worked. I think the proof is in the statistics.”

He warned there would still be delays crossing the border by road.

Police still needed to dismantle the barricades, witches hats, lighting, cabins and tents that had sprung up at checkpoints over the past eight months.

He said many of the barricades were substantial, including hundreds of metres of concrete barriers along the M1.

“When we started we had a rudimentary set up, but over time we’ve essentially built villages at each checkpoint,” he said.

“We will have appropriate traffic control in place, but if I can ask people to be patient just for a little bit longer.”

The removal of the border blocks means many police diverted to the checkpoints including the Rapid Action Patrol squad and road policing units will be returned to normal duty.

Police will also return to proactive action on speed patrols and conducting random breath testing (RBT).

During the COVID lockdown period, average speeds across Queensland jumped due to less traffic on the road and the suspension of proactive RBT and speed camera detection.

Several Gold Coast police officers would still remain on hotel quarantine security duty, Wheeler said.

Victorian and Sydney residents in quarantine at Queensland hotels will also be released from Tuesday as a result of the border restriction easing.
The Queensland Health directive on the new open borders means anyone currently completing 14 days in quarantine after coming from a previously declared hotspot will be free to depart from 1am Tuesday.

However, they would have to record a negative COVID-19 test, sign a declaration that they had not been in a COVID hotspot domestically or internationally in the past 14 days, and provide contact details before they could be released.

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