‘No excuse’ to keep border shut


FEARS Victoria is on the verge of a second wave of coronavirus has spooked state leaders wavering over reopening borders, jeopardising Queensland's plan to lift its lockdown.

But Senior Morrison Government ministers have warned states not to use Victoria as an excuse to delay opening up as localised outbreaks were expected and could be managed.

The calls come as the Palaszczuk Government yesterday declared Greater Melbourne a COVID-19 hotspot and revealed the worsening outbreak would factor in its looming decision on reopening the border.


Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the state would assess the situation at the end of June and decide whether or not to open the border on July 10. Picture: News Corp/Attila Csaszar
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the state would assess the situation at the end of June and decide whether or not to open the border on July 10. Picture: News Corp/Attila Csaszar


Victoria's weekly total of new cases more than tripled to 116, with an alarming increase in community transmissions. 

Queensland's watching brief on the borders was replicated in South Australia, where a decision to reopen on July 20 was put under review.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said the Victorian spike was worrying and would be "taken into account".

But the Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles yesterday committed to reopening that border on July 17, saying the Victorian outbreak was "part of the new normal".

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said the "last thing" he wanted was to be forced to reimpose harsh restrictions on Queenslanders because coronavirus spread through the state after reopening the border.



"We still have some time between now and when the road map outlined when we would likely consider lifting those restrictions on the 10th of July," he said.

Mr Miles quashed suggestions the Palaszczuk Government had been preparing to lift restrictions earlier, saying the intention was always to assess the situation at the end of June for a potential July 10 reopening.

He accused the LNP of "playing politics" and "jeopardising the lives of Queenslanders" by agitating for it to lift the border ban.

"(The LNP) don't have to lie awake at night thinking of the Queenslanders who could die from this virus," he said.

But Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann rejected arguments to delay border openings, saying states could handle localised outbreaks, limiting the risk of the virus spreading more widely.

"There's no state border closures between Victoria and New South Wales today and there hasn't ever been and we don't see that there is any issue in NSW as a result of localised outbreaks in Victoria," he said.

He said borders should open "as soon as possible".


Deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said the nation's top medicos had never made recommendations on border closures and states had to evaluate decisions about restrictions based on "local epidemiology" rather than with a "close eye on what's going on in Victoria".

"So it would be unreasonable for WA or Northern Territory or, indeed, Queensland at the moment to be making decisions on their restrictions necessarily with a close eye on what's going on in Victoria, because the epidemiology is different," he said.

Victoria's move to increase restrictions was a "good example of how things are going to work into the future", he said, adding it was an "important example" to show how states could get on top of outbreaks.

Dr Coatsworth said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee was briefed on the Victorian outbreak yesterday and it was a "timely reminder" that restrictions would be necessary until there was a vaccine or an effective treatment for coronavirus.

It's understood the Federal Government believes localised outbreaks are best managed with lockdowns of local communities or suburbs that don't impede wider economic reopening.

Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt called on the Queensland Government to "get on with" opening the borders and "test the boundaries".

"(The Queensland Government) will make their own decisions around borders but I certainly know business wants to get back to work, the case numbers are very, very low in Queensland and we really do need to get out and test the boundaries," he said.

Any delay in easing border restrictions would come as a blow to the hard-hit tourism sector, which has lobbied for the interstate travel ban to be lifted by July 10 or earlier based on Queensland's success in flattening the curve.

State Opposition leader Deb Frecklington remained steadfast in pushing for a July 1 border opening.

She said the Deputy Prime Minister had said there was no medical advice stating the borders should be closed, nor was there any such medical advice in Queensland.

"Right now in Queensland, we are losing 1000 jobs a week and up to $70 million a day," she said.

"The Premier has asked us to flatten the curve. We have done that. Now it's time to restart the economy."



Far North tourism bosses already gutted by the ongoing crisis said any delay reopening the border would be a "disaster".

Acting chief executive of Cairns' Crystalbrook resort Geoff York said further border delays would devastate the region.

"Forget being known as the Sunshine State, we'll be known as the welfare state," he said.

"It will be absolutely catastrophic if borders stay shut.

"It's already difficult enough relying on Queensland intrastate travel, it's marginal enough.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young yesterday responded to the Victorian spike by declaring the greater Melbourne area a COVID-19 hotspot, forcing anyone travelling to the area, including Queenslanders and essential workers, to spend 14 days in quarantine after arriving in Queensland.

Victorian health officials at the weekend declared a four-week extension to its state of emergency as it weathered a fifth day in a row of double-digit rises in new coronavirus cases.

Originally published as 'No excuse' to keep border shut