As Victoria’s COVID-19 cases increase, there is an impending sense of let-down that Queensland’s July 10 border reopening may not happen, writes Lucy Carne.
As Victoria’s COVID-19 cases increase, there is an impending sense of let-down that Queensland’s July 10 border reopening may not happen, writes Lucy Carne.

'Enough with the closed borders, Queensland must reopen'

OPINION

IT'S days like these that are truly "passport shredders".

I can't claim ownership of that term. I first heard it from my Maroons-worshipping friend Dom many years ago to encapsulate the undeniable perfection of a Queensland winter.

Those deep blue skies, warm sunshine, crystal clear waves and 22 degree maximums - you wouldn't use your passport, even if you could.

Our glorious winters are no secret. When the southern states start to shiver, they make like humpbacks and migrate north to the sunshine state.

It's no surprise Queensland towns also took out four of the top 10 international spots on Wotif's top winter getaways in 2019.

So what an utter waste of one of the most magical times of the year when our borders remain ludicrously shut.

The justification is that border closures have benefited the state by allowing restrictions to relax.

Sure, you can get your brows waxed, march in a protest and go to the footy, but that means nothing to our tourism operators, who rely on interstate visitors to make up 47.4 per cent of Queensland's domestic tourism market.

There is nothing as glorious as a perfect Queensland winter day. Picture: Lachie Millard
There is nothing as glorious as a perfect Queensland winter day. Picture: Lachie Millard

For so many in the tourism industry, July 10 dangles like a golden carrot, promising potential interstate visitors. Only 15 more days to go before livelihoods hanging by a thread may hopefully be stitched back together.

It can't come soon enough.

Noosa, which would normally be heaving with Victorians this time of year, resembles a quiet village midweek, with empty shops and plenty of carparking.

More than 500 people have lost their jobs, with another 350 experiencing "tragic" pay cuts on North Stradbroke Island.

Budget and shared facility accommodation providers across the state have remained closed, unable to justify the cost of constant cleaning.

North Queensland tourism operators estimate a $10 million loss every day the border is shut.

Laureth and Wayne Rumble (pictured), who own Pumpkin Island off the coast of Yeppoon and Elysian Retreat in the Whitsundays, rely on 98 per cent of their bookings from interstate and international travellers.

"Even though we are open we have no business," Laureth tells me.

"We have a bunch of bookings for July and August and they are all interstate bookings, but they are all pending as we are waiting for an announcement on the borders.

"I feel like we can't stay in lockdown forever. So many businesses are closing down, they are not going to recover when they finally say open up.

"Even though our income has stopped, our expenses have not. We definitely need the borders to open up."

Like so many Queensland tourism operators, Laureth and Wayne Rumble desperately need interstate visitors. Pictures: Supplied
Like so many Queensland tourism operators, Laureth and Wayne Rumble desperately need interstate visitors. Pictures: Supplied

But as Victoria's COVID-19 cases increase and panic-buying toilet paper returns, it brings with it an impending sense of let down.

Defence Force personnel have been deployed to help tackle Victoria's spike of 20 new cases and the death of a man in his 80s recorded on Tuesday

As Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk launched a tourism initiative in Longreach, in Queensland's north west, she said there would be "serious discussions" about how Victoria's coronavirus spike would impact border closures.

"We have zero cases here in Queensland, we don't want to see community transmission, we don't want a second wave," she said.

But did we even have a first wave?

With only two active cases in Queensland and eight days since the last reported case of COVID-19, it would seem we have gone beyond flattening the curve. And we have lockdown to thank for that.

But surely we are now in a position to move forward equipped to deal with this threat. Surely, we have done all we can to realistically suppress rather than eradicate.

As Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said, "it is unlikely we will ever beat this virus".

Even the normally packed Noosa has seen reduced crowds. Picture: Lachie Millard
Even the normally packed Noosa has seen reduced crowds. Picture: Lachie Millard

As a point of comparison, Norway recorded 8,777 cases and 248 deaths, yet its borders are open for leisure travel to and from most other Nordic countries (except for Sweden) with no quarantine required. They are planning to open their borders to other European countries on July 20 for their peak summer tourism period.

There is now the argument to treat Victoria like the Sweden of Australia.

Of the more than 5,000 votes in a Courier-Mail poll yesterday, 72 per cent agreed that Queensland's borders should be reopened and Victorians locked out.

Even federal medical advice does not include keeping borders closed.

This is not a deluded Novak 'Djokovid' push to pretend coronavirus doesn't exist. Nor should we flout social distancing like we're celebrating Memorial Day at a pool party at the Lake of the Ozarks.

But Queensland cannot go on with closed borders.

No amount of winter blue skies will deflect from the catastrophe that would cloud our state if they remained shut.

Lucy Carne is editor of Rendezview.com.au

Originally published as Enough with the closed borders, Queensland must reopen


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