Border mayhem: Two-hour delays, 16km of congestion
Reinstated border blockades are causing traffic chaos with delays up to two hours as Queensland slams the border shut to greater Sydney.
RACQ have warned of "extraordinary delays" at the Queensland and New South Wales borders, with reinstated checkpoints forcing 16km of traffic congestion.
Delays of almost two hours are spanning from Banora Point in Tweed Heads to Currumbin Waters on the Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast Highway is also experiencing congestion with delays up to 16 minutes.
Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Shane Chelepy told Sunrise commuters could expect disruption to traffic flow while checkpoints return.
Extraordinary delays on the M1 this morning for motorists crossing the border into Queensland before changes to restrictions at 1am tomorrow. Delays now back to Banora Point. #QldTraffic pic.twitter.com/Sj99dmxJaJ— RACQ (@RACQOfficial) December 21, 2020
"Over the next 24 hours you can see the number of checkpoints increasing," he said.
"Already we've seen increased traffic on the Gold Coast Highway and we've already had to turn people away or put people into quarantine."
Barriers are going up on the backstreets of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads this morning, with concrete barricades to be installed on the M1 and Gold Coast Highway later tonight.
Gold Coast police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said reinforcements were being sent in from across the state to man the border checkpoints.
He said while it would stretch police resources during the busy Christmas period, "we've all just got to pull together (and) we'll get through it".
It's unclear if a request will be made for Australian Defence Force troops to return to border checkpoint duty.
Supt Wheeler said there had been delays of up to two hours at the checkpoints during the first border closure from March to December 1 and warned motorists to brace for more of the same.
It comes as Queensland records one new case in the past 24 hours, which was acquired overseas and detected in hotel quarantine.
With the number of COVID-19 cases linked to the Northern Beaches clusters ballooning by 28 people to 68 in total yesterday, Queensland broadened border restrictions to now also include the Central Coast, Illawarra-Shoalhaven, and Nepean Blue Mountains.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said a National Cabinet meeting should convene if more cases were recorded in NSW over coming days.
"I really think it's going to be at that critical situation that we need to convene as a National Cabinet to talk about these issues because it is of national significance," she said.
"If things escalate over the next couple of days I think the national cabinet would be worthwhile."
As of 1am on Monday, residents from the NSW hotspot will not be allowed into Queensland.
Queensland residents returning from greater Sydney will have 24 hours after 1am today to acquire a border pass, return home, get tested and quarantine at home for 14 days from when they left the hotspot.
However from 1am on Tuesday, Queenslanders returning from greater Sydney will be required to get a border pass and undertake 14 days mandatory hotel quarantine.
For anyone who is already in Queensland who was in greater Sydney since December 11, they should get tested and quarantine at home until they receive their result.
Queensland recorded two new cases of COVID-19 yesterday - both detected in hotel quarantine and acquired overseas.
In Sydney, residents have been ordered to cancel all non-essential activity in a last-ditch effort to save Christmas as large gatherings, dancing and even carol singing are banned days before the holiday.
Victoria, the ACT and the Northern Territory have banned both residents from the capital city and the Central Coast, while South Australia and Tasmania have banned Northern Beaches residents and are requiring everyone else in Greater Sydney to quarantine for 14 days. Western Australia has maintained its hard border to all of NSW.
Meanwhile, Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she was concerned about positive results from sewage testing in northern Cairns, Townsville, Cleveland and the Gold Coast.
"I am concerned that we potentially do have people across Queensland who are active COVID-19 cases - so it is really important if you have any symptoms to get tested and isolate yourself until you have a result," she said.
Authorities have also identified 15 close contacts in Queensland who had been in contact with someone who had tested positive in NSW. Those test results were still pending yesterday.
Dr Young said people dancing closely in pubs and clubs was a concern and a review of restrictions would be considered if community transmission was found in Queensland.
Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said in the 44 hours from 4pm on Friday, police had met 87 flights from Sydney, checked 10,760 passengers and placed 108 persons into quarantine.
"Coming out of the hotspot area, they will have a Q Pass which is a quarantine pass and our officers at both the airport and road borders will determine whether the person is eligible to go into home quarantine … or whether they will have to go into mandatory self paid hotel quarantine both for 14 days," he said.
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath warned COVID was as contagious today as it was when it first struck.
Meanwhile, families from NSW and returning Queenslanders were urgently bringing forward their flights in a desperate bid to get into the Sunshine State yesterday.
The cost of tickets was skyrocketing, with some airfares reportedly as high as $900 as last-minute changes to border restrictions created worry in NSW families looking to reunite with relatives for Christmas.
Several families arrived in Brisbane on flights they had pushed forward.
Geraldine Doyle and her family, who jetted in from Sydney, were supposed to arrive today.
"We spent five hours on hold yesterday trying to get our flight pushed forward," she said.
"I hadn't seen my parents for a year."
Sunshine Coast mum Rebecca Wilkie and her daughters Mackenzie, 4, and Marli, 2, were forced to make the "devastating" decision to cut short a two-week trip visiting family in Sydney.
"We hadn't seen family for the whole year," she said.
"After the terrible time it's been recently, we were really looking forward to it. But we have to do what's right to keep everyone safe."