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Racing the clock: NSW rushes to prevent border closure going back to square one

Politics

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles has indicated that NSW has less than 36 hours to find the source of three unlinked COVID-19 cases before the clock to reopen the border is reset.

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The state border has been closed since August 8, and Queensland has set NSW a target of recording 28 days of unlinked community transmission before it fully reopens.

NSW went for 12 days without a new case, but that’s now at risk after three new cases emerged in western and southwestern Sydney after 8pm on Tuesday.

Dr Miles has indicated that NSW has until Thursday night to link those cases before the border clock is reset.

“It’s very early days. The information that we have to hand is the same information that’s currently in the public domain, and we hope to have more information,” the deputy premier said.

“The (Queensland) public health units will provide the (NSW) contact-tracers with 48 hours to identify that link, and so there’ll be obviously more information as we go from when the tests came back positive to that point.”

Dr Miles stopped short of saying the clock will be reset, but said he hoped NSW can link the cases to existing clusters.

“We hope that there isn’t clusters out there that they haven’t been able to find with their testing regime,” he said.

Queensland recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with just seven active cases in the state.

Meanwhile, Dr Miles said the government has intervened in the case of a man with brain cancer who was denied a request to quarantine after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was not happy with his treatment.

Gary Ralph, 71, had surgery in Sydney last week and arrived back in Queensland with his wife Wendy Child on Tuesday, but he was ordered into hotel quarantine.

The operation has reportedly taken away Mr Ralph’s ability to speak or even hold a pen and his NSW doctor has asked Queensland Health to allow him to quarantine at home.

The health department was allowing him to leave the hotel for chemotherapy treatment but he must travel by taxi or ride-share, in the back seat with the windows down, and must wear a mask.

Ms Palaszczuk says Mr Ralph’s situation is “very distressing” and she’s asked Mr Miles to look into his case.

“That’s very distressing and can I say I’m not happy with the way Queensland Health has dealt with that at all,” she said.

Dr Miles said Mr Ralph had been moved to a government medi-hotel along with his wife for quarantine.

He said if that was insufficient then a room in a hospital will be made available for Mr Ralph to recuperate.

“We’ve had to be very consistent about this, but ultimately in a medi-hotel or hospital we can provide more and better health supports than we could in home quarantine,” the deputy premier said.

Victoria has recorded another six new cases on Wednesday, with two of those being investigated to identify the mystery source.

Another two people have died from the virus in Victoria, taking the national toll to 897. There are now 16 Victorians being treated in hospital for COVID-19.

It comes as Queensland recorded zero new cases of coronavirus over the past 24 hours, with seven infections remaining active. Palaszczuk said it was “absolutely terrific news for Queensland”.

A total of 4,147 tests were carried out in the past 24 hours.

 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government was confident domestic borders would open by the end of the year, apart from Western Australia.

“There’s an expectation that that (WA) border reopening won’t occur until April next year,” he said.

“But closed borders cost jobs, so the quicker those borders are open in a COVID-safe way, the better, not just for those local communities and those particular states but across the country.

“Queensland has a very dynamic and large tourism sector and that tourism sector is being hurt by those border restrictions.”

Victorian Dan Andrews is urging people to get tested for the virus as a shopping centre outbreak continues to grow.

Melbourne’s rolling 14-day new case average has decreased to 9.9, with the city needing it to drop to five, with no more than five mystery cases during the same period, before restrictions can ease further on October 19.

From midnight on Wednesday, South Australia will extend its buffer zone with Victoria, easing COVID-19 restrictions on border communities.

The zone will increase from 40km to 70km on each side of the border, allowing more people to travel into SA or return from trips into Victoria without the need to quarantine.

 

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