On Monday 23 March 2020, the Queensland Government announced there would be a closure of the Queensland borders taking effect from midnight on Wednesday 25 March 2020.
Any person travelling to Queensland will need to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether they have symptoms of COVID-19, unless they are an exempt person. Penalties for breaking quarantine directions include fines of up to $13,345 for individuals and $66,672.50 for corporations. Enforcement officers can also issue on-the-spot tickets of $1,334.50 for individuals and $6,672.50 for corporations. The border closure measures include:
- "RBT-style" police checks on vehicles travelling on:
- M1 Highway
- Gold Coast Highway
- Griffith Street
- Closure of the following roads:
- Nerang-Murwillumbah Road at Springbrook
- Tomewin Mountain Road at Currumbin Valley
- Kent Street at intersection with Toolan Street at Coolangatta
- Dixon Street roundabout with no access to Queensland from Charles Street to Florence Street at Coolangatta
- Dixon Street at intersection with Bay Street at Coolangatta
- Miles Street at Coolangatta opposite Len Peak Oval
- Advice to aircraft passengers at departure point that travellers to Queensland will be required to self-isolate for 14 days;
- Travellers arriving at Queensland airports to be met by police and other officers; and
- Termination of rail services.
Persons arriving by aircraft may not enter Queensland unless they provide personal and contact details, the address where they intend to stay in Queensland, information about where they have travelled in the last 30 days and any other information requested in an arrivals form. If non-exempt persons cannot demonstrate the ability to quarantine, they will be turned away at the border.
Exemptions from the requirement to quarantine for 14 days upon entering Queensland
Exemptions from the requirement to quarantine include:
- Queensland residents
- National/state security
- Essential health services
- Emergency services
- Transport of goods or freight including food
- Critical maintenance/repair to critical infrastructure in Queensland
- Mining/energy/agribusiness who have a plan to manage COVID-19 transmission among employees
- FIFO workers in commercial construction, fishing, mining, energy or agribusiness industries
- People who live outside Queensland who live near the border who ordinarily work or study in Queensland to travel for that purpose, or travel interstate to obtain essential goods and services
- People with compassionate grounds, for example people who:
- are carers/relatives of dependent people in Queensland
- oneed to obtain essential medical treatment including visiting terminally ill relatives in Queensland
- are interstate boarding school students where school is closed
- are required to comply with the law to travel to Queensland (for example, Family Court, parole/bail conditions)
Even if a person does meet one of the above exemptions, they will still be required to self-quarantine if they have been outside the border of Australia in the last 14 days or if they have travelled in the last 14 days to particular areas of Australia ("COVID19 hotspot" areas). These COVID19 hotspot areas will be decided by the Chief Health Officer and published on the Queensland Health website.
The Government has launched an online portal enabling members of the public to apply for a Queensland Entry Pass. This system will provide exempt persons with a permit that can be used to demonstrate that they are exempt from the requirement to quarantine. Queensland residents are not required to obtain a permit.
What does this mean for Queensland residents travelling to New South Wales for work?
Queensland residents commuting to New South Wales for work should have no problem entering New South Wales since the New South Wales border has not been closed. When returning to Queensland, to avoid quarantine workers will likely need to prove they are Queensland residents and that their travel is essential because they work in New South Wales.
It is recommended that commuters carry with them photo identification evidencing their residential address (eg. a driver's licence) and a letter from their employer confirming that they are commuting across the border to get to work.
It is expected that these measures will increase traffic around the Queensland and New South Wales border. Commuters should be prepared for delays and be patient with the authorities while they implement the border closure.