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Queensland’s decision to welcome greater Sydney residents back from the start of February has taken New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian by surprise.
From Monday all Australians will be free to visit Queensland without quarantining, after the premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, announced that 35 NSW local government areas would no longer be considered Covid hotspots.
The decision comes as NSW recorded its 11th straight day of zero locally acquired Covid-19 cases. Palaszczuk said Queensland’s chief medical officer, Dr Jeanette Young, was satisfied that NSW had achieved the precondition for reopening the border of 28 days of no unlinked Covid-19 cases.
“We haven’t ignored the rules,” Palaszczuk said on Thursday.
“Dr Young has had discussions with the chief medical officer in NSW and is very confident those cases can be related back to those original clusters, so she is very confident that the 28 days has been met.”
Palaszczuk said the border closure had been “a really, really long haul, and it has been tough on everybody”.
“So it’s a great time for families to be reunited, but also, too, for people to plan their holidays,” she told Nine’s Today program on Thursday.
The Queensland premier’s border announcement appeared to come as a surprise to her NSW counterpart.
Sydney 2GB radio host Ben Fordham asked Berejiklian about the breaking news while interviewing her on air on Thursday morning.
“What do you know that I don’t?” she asked Fordham.
After he revealed Palaszczuk had just made the announcement on television, Berejiklian replied, “Fantastic, that’s good news.
“We’ve had to be too patient … I hope that this brings a lot of hope and joy to people.”
Queensland shut the border to greater Sydney, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains after a coronavirus cluster in the northern beaches broke out in December, causing chaos for travellers during the Christmas period.
Berejiklian has long campaigned for state border closures to be relaxed, but Queensland had resisted so far.
Palasczcuk also urged the federal government to extend jobkeeper payments for tourism operators in far-north Queensland beyond March when they are due to end.
“I honestly think there is a case to be made to the federal government that perhaps Scott Morrison and the federal government could look at those industries that are doing it tough and maybe jobkeeper does need to be extended for those.”
Palasczcuk initially indicated there would not be blanket border closures in future with a national hotspot regime adequately containing outbreaks in Sydney and Brisbane, but in a press conference later in the day said outbreaks of new highly contagious variants may be enough to trigger travel restrictions.
“I think everyone would know if there was an outbreak of the UK variant like we did in greater Brisbane where we had to shut down immediately, but fingers crossed, that won’t happen,” she said.
Victoria’s premier also said he hoped to downgrade the last of the NSW “red” zones in their traffic light border system by the end of Friday.
“I’m very confident that tomorrow, there will be changes to the settings,” Daniel Andrews said on Thursday.
The local government area of Cumberland in western Sydney is currently the only region barred from entering Victoria. A number of other Sydney suburbs are designated “orange”, meaning residents are allowed into the state but must isolate until they test negative for Covid-19.
“An announcement will be made that would see the vast majority of those orange zones moved green,” Andrews said.
“The exact status of Cumberland and potentially one other local government area, I can’t comment on that, but I’d hope to have by the end of tomorrow, no red zones in NSW, a much larger green zone.”
Victoria has had 22 consecutive days without any new local cases.
Source: The Guardian
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