Border barneys as Brisbane residents freed

Daniel McCulloch and Rebecca Gredley
·3-min read

Coronavirus imposed border closures across the country continue to change as millions of Greater Brisbane residents prepare to emerge from lockdown.

Tempers are frayed over coronavirus restrictions, with state premiers split over border closures.

About two million Queenslanders are due to emerge from a snap three-day lockdown on Monday night after another day of no new locally acquired coronavirus cases gave authorities confidence spread of the illness is being curbed.

The lockdown of the Greater Brisbane area was put in place after a hotel quarantine worker was infected with the highly contagious UK strain of COVID-19.

Some restrictions, including wearing masks, will remain in place for 10 days.

In response, states tweaked their border rules for the Brisbane area but there remains no nationally consistent protocols on borders and hotspots.

The Northern Territory and the ACT have given the all clear for residents to return from Greater Brisbane, lifting quarantine requirements for people who had visited the city.

But Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan is keeping his state's border closed to Queensland until authorities are certain there is no community spread of the virus.

"If we make a mistake and the virus comes in, well, then no-one will thank us. Everyone will say: "Why did you do that"," he told reporters in Perth on Monday.

"So we're just going to continue to be cautious."

He wants NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to look at how other states are working to "crush and kill" the virus, compared to her suppression strategy.

NSW has recorded five new local coronavirus cases, with three of those linked to the Berala cluster.

Ms Berejiklian thinks state leaders should have input into closures that would affect their citizens, after earlier criticising Victoria's speed at closing its border to NSW due to a cluster on Sydney's northern beaches.

Victorians stuck in regional NSW will be able to return home from 6pm on Monday under updated health advice, but those in Greater Sydney still face quarantine restrictions.

Victoria has announced a traffic light system for anyone wanting to visit the state, with all areas of Australia colour-coded as either red, orange or green depending on risk of the virus.

The federal government has previously been highly critical of premiers and chief ministers for maintaining harsh restrictions and border closures.

However, acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack has struck a more sympathetic tone about approaches embraced by states to keep their residents safe.

"While I understand and appreciate that border lockdowns have had an impact on people's lives and livelihoods, what we've actually been able to see is Australia remain as largely COVID-free as possible," he told ABC radio.

"With the vaccine coming on board in the early parts of this year, I think that will be another step in the right direction as far as getting into a more normal existence that we enjoyed before COVID."

Meanwhile, more Australians stranded overseas will soon be able to fly home after the Northern Territory and federal governments struck a deal to gradually increase the number of quarantine spots at a facility near Darwin.

There are currently about 500 arrivals per fortnight and the goal is for that number to increase to 850 by late March.