Australia

Queenslanders in regional NSW urged to ‘come home now’ as border remains open

Queenslanders in regional NSW have been told to return home now to avoid being locked out if COVID-19 spreads beyond Greater Sydney.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has opted to keep the border open to regional NSW but has also warned that could change very quickly if the virus escapes from greater Sydney’s lockdown zone.

“My message to Queenslanders is if you are in those areas, come home. I can’t be any clearer,” she said on Monday.

“We are monitoring this incredibly closely.”

Queensland had no new locally acquired cases on Monday. The last time a case was infectious in the community was a week ago, on 5 July.

Restrictions that have been in place since late June will ease at 6am on Friday amid increasing confidence Queensland authorities have contained multiple, simultaneous clusters.

Masks will no longer be mandatory in the general community, cafes and restaurants will be able to take in more patrons, dancing at nightclubs will return, and there’ll be no restrictions on visits to hospitals and aged-care homes.

“At this stage, fingers crossed. It is all looking terrific,” the premier said.

She downplayed any risk stemming from a deal to allow the NRL to move 12 clubs to southeast Queensland for the next two months, so the competition can continue.

The deal includes players being allowed to bring their families.

Ms Palaszczuk said there was no risk to Queensland because players and their families would have exclusive use of three hotels for the duration of their stays.

“They will be in their distinct hubs. It’s up to the NRL to police that, but we’ll be monitoring that very closely as well,” she said. 

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young also backed the importation of interstate teams, saying: “There’s no one else in those hotels other than those teams and their family members.”

She said it was too soon to declare mission accomplished in terms of killing off further local transmission associated with the multiple clusters that sent parts of Queensland into a three-day lockdown.

She is hopeful that moment isn’t too far off, but will wait for 4,158 people in home quarantine to complete their isolation and return negative tests.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said Queensland had very limited stock of vaccine doses and they are being reserved for people needing their second shots.

She said 64,500 doses were due to arrive on Tuesday, and 62,000 on Thursday.

She warned people who went to vaccination hubs without an appointment were unlikely to receive a shot until those extra doses arrived.

“When we get that extra supply on Tuesday, we expect to be able to build up capacity from Wednesday again,” the minister told reporters.

NSW recorded 112 new local cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with at least 46 of those active in the community while infectious.

Ms Palaszczuk said sewage testing in NSW would play a crucial role in whether the border was closed or not, and would be an early indicator if the virus began creeping north.

Queensland recorded one new case of COVID-19 in hotel quarantine on Monday. There were 5835 tests and 3776 vaccinations.

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