An electronic sign on the M1 south bound displaying the upcoming Queensland / New South Wales border closure. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
An electronic sign on the M1 south bound displaying the upcoming Queensland / New South Wales border closure. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT

MORE DETAILS: Queensland border closure rules explained

WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

  • Queensland authorities are working to set up an online platform and phone hotline for exempt travellers to apply for verification
  • Verification of your exemption will also be available at border checkpoints
  • Circumstances such as caring for a cross-border parent will fall under "compassionate grounds" for exemption
  • Also exempt is work travel, freight, emergency workers and emergency vehicles and people travelling for medical appointments
  • Anyone travelling for "pleasure", like travel or visiting relatives who don't depend on you to care for them, will not be exempt
  • If you believe you have grounds for exemption and will seek verification at the border, it's recommended you bring some form of documentation with you (e.g confirmation of a medical appointment or a letter from your employer).

 

UPDATE, 2pm: WORK is under way to set up an online system for NSW residents to register for exemption to travel into Queensland for legitimate purposes.

Queensland will close its borders from midnight tonight.

Queensland Police Service Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski has told a press conference a "whole of government" effort was going into creating a web portal for people to set up their exemptions.

He said that site is expected to be available in the next day or so, and a hotline will also be set up, with details to be confirmed.

But those travelling through border checkpoints will be able to arrange exemptions at the border as well, if there are sufficient grounds.

He said they hoped to make the process "as seamless as possible".

Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski stressed anyone planning to cross the border in either direction "for pleasure" should not do so.

"Once a person using their vehicle is given their exemption (at the border) we'll be able to wave them thru through a more seamless way," he said.

"We are doing this to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

"That is the sole aim of this.

"It is about minimising the risk to our community.

"We know that if we do this well … our services including our health services will be able to cope with it."

 

NSW should be locked down

Meanwhile, Richmond MP Justine Elliot has backed calls for NSW to be locked down.

"The coronavirus emergency requires urgent action," Ms Elliot said.

"I support NSW Labor's call for a complete lock down in NSW within 48 hours."

The State Government's approach is not in line with Byron mayor Simon Richardson's calls for NSW to close its borders, as Queensland is about to.

 

How police will enforce border closure

Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said police at locations across the border, including the Gold Coast, on the Granite Belt and around the state, would be assisted by other emergency services to "ease the burden on police".

"It's all very localised, we are using local resources," he said.

He said the same rules and exemptions would apply for those travelling by any means into Queensland, whether you're driving up the highway, walking across the road at Tweed Heads, travelling by plane  or by boat.

While the Premier's office previously indicated vehicles would be stopped in an RBT-like manner, he said all vehicles would be stopped initially.

"Every vehicle coming across the border will be subject to scrutiny, especially in the initial part," he said.

"Initially anyone who doesn't have the … verification of the exemption, will be stopped.

"If they're exempt and they don't have (verification) they'll be given something at that time."

He said trucks which are obviously supplying supermarkets would likely be waved through.

"If (NSW residents) want to come across the border to have a coffee …we're not going to let you through," he said.

It's not yet clear how long the border closure will be in place but Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said authorities would be able to sustain it for a long period.

"We think we can sustain this for as long we need to," he said.

"We're planning for months of this, not for a couple of weeks.

"We will sustain this for … up to  six months if that's required."

He earlier told the ABC people travelling interstate because they're caring for someone, like an elderly parent, would fall under compassionate grounds for exemption.

Fines for breaching the restrictions exceed $13,000.

 

Original story: MORE details on Queensland's impending border closure are expected to be revealed soon.

The Queensland State Disaster Co-ordinator is expected to hold a media conference at 12.15pm (QLD time), followed by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

A spokesman for the Premier has stressed the border closure is not designed to impact border communities, but to hamper the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)

"We are trying to stop the spread of the virus," he said.

"The Premier has said these measures are not aimed at border communities going about their normal lives although everyone everywhere should be limiting their travel.

"People who are going to and from work, visiting a sick relative, getting medical treatment will all get through.

"We are aiming to stop tourists who would usually head north on Easter holidays. Those are the people we are trying to stop getting in their cars in the first place."

He said delays on roads around the border could be expected after the closure kicks in at midnight tonight.

"Police will operate checkpoints similar to RBT operations," he said.

"This will cause delays. A system - like something on the windscreen - identifying locals just trying to get to and from work is being developed. This will take time.

"We're sorry emergency measures are having to happen in emergency time frames. That's unavoidable."

Byron mayor Simon Richardson has called for NSW to follow suit and close its borders as well, but this has not been supported by the NSW Government.

Ms Palaszczuk yesterday said "extraordinary measures" were required.

"They are not directed at our border communities who cross to shop or work, attend medical appointments and return to their homes," she said.

"They are to stop holiday-makers leaving southern states and risking the spread of this virus through Queensland."

The measures, in effect from midnight tonight, include:

• Some border road closures and police checks on vehicles on major highways.

• 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

• Termination of rail services

Exemptions include:

• Freight

• Emergency vehicles

• Emergency workers

• Those travelling to and from work including FIFO workers

• Court orders including family court

• Compassionate grounds

• Medical treatment

The Northern Star has put a list of questions to the Ms Palaszczuk's office and other authorities to clarify the status of circumstances which may fall into grey areas.

This includes a query regarding what constitutes "compassionate grounds".

 

The New South Wales border leaving Queensland. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
The New South Wales border leaving Queensland. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT

 

Anyone travelling to Queensland, not usually resident in Queensland, for any other reason will have to agree to self-isolate for 14 days sick or not.

Penalties include fines of up to $13,345.

The border between NSW and Queensland was last closed to contain the Spanish flu at the end of World War One.

"People should stay in their own states and in their own suburbs," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"That applies to Queensland as well.

"People in the south-east should not travel to other parts of the state.

"Do not go on holidays. Do not travel unless absolutely necessary."

Tweed mayor Katie Milne has said all residents need to be aware of the changes.

In a statement, Tweed Shire Council said it had been advised there would initially be three access points into Queensland: through the M1, on the Gold Coast Highway and along Griffith St in Tweed Heads/Coolangatta.

All other roads which access Queensland will be closed with roadblocks. These arrangements could change.

"Council totally supports the call to stay at home for all non-essential travel now," Cr Milne said.

 

A border control sign is displayed to motorists on the Pacific Highway, near the Queensland border in far northern New South Wales, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The Queensland border will close at midnight on Wednesday as authorities try to stop the spread of COVID-19. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
A border control sign is displayed to motorists on the Pacific Highway, near the Queensland border in far northern New South Wales, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The Queensland border will close at midnight on Wednesday as authorities try to stop the spread of COVID-19. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

 

"These are extraordinary times and I support the Queensland Premier's intent to reduce unnecessary movements.

"It would have been better with at least some consultation with Council and businesses but we understand that everyone is just doing their very best at this stage, as quickly as they can.

"Around 8000 Tweed residents work in Queensland and 5000 Queensland residents work in Tweed - our communities are intertwined in so many ways.

"The Queensland Premier's decision strengthens my earlier call for a national lockdown for two to four weeks to give us time to get all the processes in place and reduce confusion.

"At the moment we are seeing piecemeal decision making, when we need the most precautionary and unified approach."


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