‘We hope not’: Qld Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk can’t promise borders will stay open
Queensland has finally ditched its zero-Covid mindset and released a reopening road map, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk still won’t rule out slamming the borders shut again.
The Premier on Monday announced a December 17 reopening date for fully vaccinated visitors had been ‘locked in’ after facing months of questions around how and when Queensland was planning to welcome people back in.
Border restrictions will ease somewhat for visitors when the state reaches 70 per cent double-dose coverage – tipped to be November 19 – and again at 80 per cent on December 17, with no quarantine required and only a negative test needing to be returned.
But asked on ABC Breakfast TV whether more relaxed border rules would remain in place, even in the event of a surge in cases, Ms Palaszczuk offered little commitment.
ABC host Lisa Miller: “So that’s no more border closures?”
“We hope there’s not, but, you know, we have to work to the national plan and that is exactly our intention,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Ms Palaszczuk and her government had been reluctant to reveal a reopening plan amid criticism from state and federal Coalition members and the business community.
However, lagging vaccination rates and a lack of guidance and support from Prime Minister Scott Morrison were often cited as reasons for keeping the borders shut and preventing Queensland from suffering the same fate as Covid-riddled NSW and Victoria.
Ms Palaszczuk on Monday said the government reserved the right to implement regionalised lockdowns in the event of a severe outbreak once the borders opened, while unvaccinated Queenslanders could soon be prevented from entering certain businesses.
Ms Palaszczuk on Tuesday also dismissed suggestions that the state’s under-construction quarantine facility at Toowoomba was “pointless” given Covid was now expected to arrive in Queensland as restrictions eased.
She told the Today show the Wellcamp facility would still be required for unvaccinated international students and those providing labour on farms.
“Who knows, in the future where a country might be declared a hotspot and charter flights will have to come in and quarantine will be needed,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“I don’t have a crystal ball for the future. We can act only within our means, but we will be ready. We will have the facility ready by the end of this year.”
Earlier, Ms Palaszczuk shrugged off suggestions she admires NSW for its superior vaccination record, declaring on Today she would not leap “too far” or “too quickly” to praise her southern neighbour.
Ms Palaszczuk noted that NSW and the ACT were above 90 per cent first dose coverage and added that a rumoured 90 per cent target for Queensland was something she had been ridiculed for previously.
NSW and ACT are both above 80 per cent double-dose rates and Queensland is at 56.9 per cent.
“We could be the best vaccinated country in the world if we get our vaccination levels up. How good would that be?” Ms Palaszczuk said.
She was then asked: “Sounds to many like you admire NSW. I mean, that is a big leap for a Queensland premier.”
“Not too far and not too quickly,” Ms Palaszczuk replied.
Ms Palaszczuk’s subtle dig at NSW came as she announced a vaccination blitz was under way in order to get Queenslanders jabbed – particularly those in regional areas – so the state could reach the 70 per cent and 80 per cent fully vaccinated targets it had set down for restrictions to ease.
Queensland will open its domestic borders to the vaccinated from Covid-19 hotspots on November 19 or earlier if the vaccine rate for those over 16 reaches 70 per cent in the state.
The Premier said visitors from areas of concern would be limited to travel by air and must have returned a negative virus test in the 72 hours before arrival.
Visitors from Covid hotspots will also be required to complete home quarantine for two weeks.
The restrictions will ease again on December 17 when the state is expected to reach 80 per cent coverage and vaccinated arrivals can come by air or road and will not need to quarantine.
There was, however, bad news on Monday for Queenslanders who have not been jabbed.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said there would be certain freedoms that were only available to people that had been vaccinated after December 17.
“We will work with industry and business but we expect that there will be some settings and venues that decide to be vaccinated only, and in return they will have eased restrictions,” he said.
– With James Hall
Originally published as ‘We hope not’: Qld Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk can’t promise borders will stay open
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