Travel bubble bursts as political fighting ramps up
ANNASTACIA Palaszczuk has all but ruled out introducing an interstate travel bubble, amid accusations she was politicising the Queensland's chief health officer's advice for the tough border restrictions.
The State Government came under more pressure yesterday to reopen Queensland's borders despite a major increase in COVID-19 cases in Victoria threatening the southern state with a second wave of infections.
There were 17 new cases in Victoria yesterday, leading Premier Daniel Andrews to warn that the recent infections represent "significant community transmission".
Only one new case was a quarantined traveller. Authorities said 11 cases are still under investigation, with three identified as part of "routine testing" and two linked to known outbreaks.
State authorities have been forced to send "hundreds and hundreds of people" door to door to ensure people aren't breaking coronavirus rules, Mr Andrews said yesterday.
People were forced to wait for more than four hours in some cases or turned away as they rushed for a test amid growing fears of an impending second wave of the deadly virus.
Ms Palaszczuk reiterated the closure of Queensland's borders would be reassessed at the end of the month, while claiming she hadn't spoken to any states or territories about a travel bubble. Such a move, which would hypothetically allow Queenslanders to travel to certain states or territories but not others with community transmission such as Victoria, was touted in early June by Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles who revealed "some work" had been done on how it could work.
But at the time he conceded it was probably unlikely.
When Ms Palaszczuk was asked if she would be discussing it with her counterparts, she said, "The Prime Minister's made it clear he doesn't want that to happen".
It's understood Mr Morrison does not favour interstate travel bubbles as he wants all borders open as soon as possible. While NSW has been in favour of borders reopening - and has not closed its own - yesterday Premier Gladys Berejiklian took the extraordinary step of directing businesses to refuse entry to anyone from a Victorian COVID-19 hotspot.
Ms Berejiklian told organisations "not to interact with citizens from Melbourne at this stage," meaning any business travel from the Victorian capital to Sydney is also off.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud accused state premiers of politicising medical advice, taking particular aim at Queensland, and called for them to "give us the medical reason" backing their decisions to keep the borders closed.
He said the hesitation from state premiers on reopening borders was creating confusion and anxiety.
"I just fear, particularly in my home state of Queensland, that it is just the politicisation of the Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young rather than trying to work through with the best medical advice," he told Sky News.
"This is just causing anxiety in the community, we cannot continue to lock ourselves down."
Mr Miles said he believed Victoria would get on top of the outbreak.
"It's now the case that anyone who travels through greater Melbourne and returns to Queensland will be required to quarantine for 14 days," he said. "That's regardless of the purpose or their residency status. That's a layer above our border restrictions."
Mr Miles said the advice Dr Young had provided suggested it could go "either of two ways".
"This could be the beginning of another wave and that of course would be very concerning," he said. "Or if the Victorian health authorities are successful, and I really hope they are, that they could suppress these outbreaks (and) return back to a state of suppression."
Those flying into Brisbane Airport from Sydney yesterday were met with heightened security of police, Army and SES personnel and were asked if they had travelled from Victoria in the past few days.
Two Sydney passengers, Shala Shetab and Shadi Hadad said they were surprised at how lax the screening process was considering the recent southern outbreak.
"All they did was ask if we travelled from Victoria, which obviously we weren't, but I don't see how you couldn't lie about it." Ms Shetab said.
"They really weren't fact checking you or where you were coming from originally."
"You'd hope if things were this relaxed up here that they'd be making a bigger effort to screen travellers leaving Melbourne down there" Miss Hadad added.
- with James O'Doherty & Clare Armstrong
Originally published as Travel bubble bursts as political fighting ramps up