COVID-19 outbreak: Sydneysiders blocked at border

 

MAYOR Tom Tate has pleaded with Gold Coast residents and visitors to do the right thing as maskless Christmas crowds pack in shoulder-to-shoulder at bustling city shopping centres.

He has warned social distancing and other COVID-19 prevention measures are crucial to avoid tougher restrictions being imposed, and the potential spread of the virus.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate speaking to the media. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Steve Holland
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate speaking to the media. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Steve Holland

The State Government has already closed the border to almost five million Greater Sydney residents in response to an outbreak in the metropolis, which reached 83 cases on Monday.

Controversial hard border checkpoints are back at the Queensland-New South Wales border.

Cr Tate was unhappy to see the hard closure implemented, but felt it was necessary.

"Tackling community transmission requires a range of measures and while I don't want to see hard border closures, we have to all work together and follow the best health advice," he said.

"People must social distance if we want to maintain the State's current response to the virus. I urge people to do everything asked of them."

Traffic banks up at the border. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Steve Holland
Traffic banks up at the border. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Steve Holland

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced yesterday barricades would be erected to enforce the hard closure with Greater Sydney.

She said Queensland had recorded one new coronavirus case, a quarantined traveller who returned from overseas. The state only had 10 active cases.

"This is really important everyone, we want everyone to do the right thing, so people will be turned around," Ms Palaszczuk said.

Queensland Health said in a statement yesterday 16,350 tests ha been performed in just four days - an increase of 66 per cent compared to earlier in the month.

People lining up for testing at Gold Coast University Hospital. Picture: Glenn Hampson
People lining up for testing at Gold Coast University Hospital. Picture: Glenn Hampson

Dozens of people have indeed been turned back at the border after Greater Sydney was declared a hot spot as of 1am yesterday.

Traffic was lined up more than 15km, stretching from the border to Kingscliff.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said a case linked to the Avalon COVID-19 cluster in Sydney's Northern Beaches had visited Glen Hotel at Eight Mile Plains in Brisbane.

She urged anyone who visited the hotel to come forward, and 560 people already had.

Echoing the premier, Dr Young pushed Queenslanders who visited the Northern Beaches to get tested for the virus.

People using umbrellas to protect themselves from the harsh sun while waiting for hours. Picture Glenn Hampson
People using umbrellas to protect themselves from the harsh sun while waiting for hours. Picture Glenn Hampson

Massive queues were reported at Coast testing clinics yesterday, including at Gold Coast University Hospital and Upper Coomera Respiratory Clinic.

The rush to clinics followed the revelation by Dr Young virus fragments had been found in Coast sewage.

She was concerned about the existence of active cases in Queensland.

Meanwhile, face masks are again compulsory for patients attending medical appointments.

Destination Gold Coast chairman Paul Donovan himself is self-isolating while waiting for the results of a COVID test, having returned from Sydney in recent days.

Mr Donovan said he was disappointed border controls were being ramped up but was confident the Coast would put its best foot forward through the Christmas period.

Destination Gold Coast chairman Paul Donovan. Picture: Tertius Pickard
Destination Gold Coast chairman Paul Donovan. Picture: Tertius Pickard

"This is all because of the small number of people who were cheating the system and were not doing the right thing and have jeopardised everything," he said.

"Now we have to live with it but I think we will make the best of it."

Each year, Greater Sydney injects more than $225 million into the Coast's economy over the summer period.

NSW recorded 15 new locally-acquired COVID-19 cases yesterday and more than 38,000 tests had been undertaken.

Queensland Dr Jeannette Young. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Queensland Dr Jeannette Young. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Ms Palaszczuk said anyone entering Queensland from NSW, including Queenslanders, must now complete a border declaration pass online beforehand.

Anyone who has been in Greater Sydney since December 11 will not be allowed into Queensland without an exemption.

If an exemption is granted, travellers must go into hotel quarantine for 14 days.

To find your nearest COVID-19 testing centre, visit the Queensland Health website, contact your local hospital or phone 13 HEALTH.

 

Tremayne Spencer from Sydney arrives on the last flights out of Sydney before a hard lock down commences. Photo: Scott Powick Newscorp
Tremayne Spencer from Sydney arrives on the last flights out of Sydney before a hard lock down commences. Photo: Scott Powick Newscorp

 

On the final day for Sydneysiders to make the dash to the Gold Coast before the hard closure was enforced on Greater Sydney, travelers like Tremayne Spencer were relieved to get into the city on flights throughout Monday.

The 18-year-old university student who studies in Sydney was returning to the Gold Coast to spend Christmas with family and said the airport had a somber atmosphere.

"The flight was very quiet and the airports were the same. It was like a funeral," he said.

"I was concerned I wasn't going to be able to get back and if that happened, I would've driven. Luckily I didn't need to."

 

Tim Maguire with wife Nikki and children Ella, Nikki, Olivia, Will and Sam from Sydney arrives on the last flights out of Sydney before a hard lock down commences. Photo: Scott Powick Newscorp
Tim Maguire with wife Nikki and children Ella, Nikki, Olivia, Will and Sam from Sydney arrives on the last flights out of Sydney before a hard lock down commences. Photo: Scott Powick Newscorp

 

The Maguire family also flew into Gold Coast Airport on Monday to spend time at their Burleigh Heads apartment, traveled from Albury-Wodonga with a stopover in Sydney.

"We're technically Victorian because we live on that side of the border but we were concerned we wouldn't be able to get into Queensland with a stopover in Sydney," he said.

"We tried to change but the earliest flight that would stopover in Melbourne instead was on the 24th and would cost a huge surcharge."

 

 

COVID-19 OUTBREAK: COAST ECONOMY HANGING BY A THREAD

 

THE Gold Coast holiday season is hanging by a thread as the Sydney COVID-19 outbreak blows a $200 million hole in the economy.

Tourism and business bosses are rapidly reassessing the expected festive influx after almost five million people in the greater Sydney reason were locked out of Queensland. The state government warns a decision on whether to reintroduce hard border blockades with NSW depends on the next 48 hours.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: Steve Pohlner

The Sydney northern beaches outbreak grew by a further 30 new COVID-19 cases by Sunday, forcing Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to again tighten restrictions.

 

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In developments:

● Two new COVID cases were detected in Queensland, both acquired overseas and now in hotel quarantine.

● Both South Australia and Victoria also instituted travel bans on people coming from greater Sydney.

● Residents from greater Sydney were told to not come to Queensland from 1am Monday.

● Queenslanders who were in greater Sydney will have until 1am Tuesday to get home and must test for the virus upon their return and quarantine at home.

● Five people in Queensland who were close contacts of active cases have all been identified but test results are pending.

● Pubs and clubs were told they had 72 hours to get their "house" in order over contact tracing issues and move away from paper-based registration to people signing in digitally after issues with illegible handwriting.

Destination Gold Coast chairman Paul Donovan. Picture: Scott Fletcher
Destination Gold Coast chairman Paul Donovan. Picture: Scott Fletcher

Ms Palaszczuk warned the state was "in a public health emergency": "If you are a NSW resident in greater Sydney, please do not come to Queensland. If you are a Queenslander in greater Sydney please come home quickly."

The Greater Sydney region, which includes Woolongong and the central coast, is the Coast's largest source of domestic overnight visitors.

It was expected to inject $225 million into the city's economy during the summer.

Tourism leaders now say it will be significantly lower.

Destination Gold Coast chairman Paul Donovan said the lockout of Greater Sydney would have a dramatic impact, with a wave of booking cancellations expected to hit hotels from Monday.

"Annastacia has been very measured but let's hope that NSW gets things under control in the next couple of days so we can salvage something from the wreckage," he said.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. Picture: Steve Pohlner

"This is going to have a big impact on what we were expected to see this Christmas and I am sure a lot of operators will be concerned.

"This has been the worst year we have ever had for tourism but all is not lost - we still have Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania open to us."

A raft of flights from Sydney are expected to be axed from Monday but Queensland Airports CEO Chris Mills said it was too early to know the scope of damage. "This is clearly a setback because Sydney numbers had been really strong and last week we were getting 15 flights from there to the Gold Coast a day," he said.

Surfers Paradise Licensed Venues Association president Tim Martin. Picture: Jerad Williams
Surfers Paradise Licensed Venues Association president Tim Martin. Picture: Jerad Williams

"We're still open to Melbourne and other key areas so the Sydney situation doesn't take us back to where we were. This is not going to be the Christmas we were hoping for."

Venue operators including nightspots, restaurants and cafes said Sydney's shutout was a big blow as traders enjoyed a busy end to a dire year.

Surfers Paradise Licensed Venues Association president and Artesian Hospitality invested partner Tim Martin, who manages nightclubs Sin City, The Bedroom and Havana R & B, said: "We're quite nervous. We've just got to a good place, a good balance and it's unfortunate what's happened. It'll be devastating if we go backwards further.

"We understand the government has to put measures in place and hopefully we can shut down now and avoid being in the same place we were in earlier in the year."

Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce president Martin Hall said the state response was "no surprise".

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate. Picture: Steve Holland/NCA NewsWire
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate. Picture: Steve Holland/NCA NewsWire

"Let's just hope the containment (in NSW) is fast and we can continue to trade."

"The pressure is mounting over the border and it could erupt very quickly. The shops are throbbing - that's probably an understatement."

Mayor Tom Tate praised Ms Palaszczuk's cautious approach to the outbreak but urged against following Western Australia's lead of reintroducing a hard border with NSW.

"The Premier's response has been appropriate but I would not want to see a hard closure," he said.

Originally published as COVID-19 outbreak: Sydneysiders blocked at border


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