Welcome back, interstate friends!
After almost four months, Queensland’s borders officially reopened to all states and territories, except Victoria, at midday on Friday.
As the clock struck noon, thousands of cars queued at a number of Gold Coast checkpoints, as they eagerly awaited permission to gain entry to the sunshine state.
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Everyone crossing the border is required to have filled out a new border declaration pass, confirming they have not spent any time in Victoria in the past 14 days.
If anyone is caught lying on the declaration, they will cop an on the spot fine of $4000 and be immediately turned around and sent packing.
“Don’t think that you’re going to be able to get through here if you are going to be lying or declaring a false declaration you will be fined $4000,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
It’s understood more than 314,000 people have already completed a border pass to enter the state, with police warning traffic chaos is expected from today and across the weekend as officers ramp up patrols on tourists.
Authorities were originally warning of 20km queues and three hour delays at the border, however as of 1.00pm on Friday, traffic is banked up just over 9km on the M1 into Queensland, with a 35-minute wait being reported.
The Gold Coast Highway is also heavily congested, with traffic at a standstill for about three kilometres and at least half an hour delays being experienced.
“Generally I would say around Coolangatta and Tweed the additional volume of traffic has certainly caused delays and congestion, which we anticipated,” Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said.
The Premier said those planning on coming to Queensland should prepare to be stuck in gridlock.
“Patience will definitely be a virtue today,” she said.
“We know there will be lengthy delays. I have been saying all week to everybody, please plan your journey. Don’t be rushing across the border today because you will be sitting in the traffic for hours. If you can delay your journey, delay it.”
Police have revealed mornings and afternoons will likely be the busiest times of day, with additional officers rostered on to help get through the delays quicker.
“We ask people to be really patient, please plan your trip accordingly and if you don’t need to come into Queensland this afternoon please don’t, look at another day or perhaps late at night or earlier in the morning,” Chief Superintendent Wheeler said.
“If you have young kids on board, make sure you have some food, some water and some supplies”.
The first two flights since the borders reopened have also touched down at the Gold Coast Airport this afternoon.
QANTAS flight QF590 from Sydney was welcomed by a traditional water cannon salute by the airport’s fire-fighting service, as it landed at 11.55am.
While a Virgin flight touched down at 1pm.
Chief Superintendent Wheeler said all 332 passengers were screened by health authorities upon their arrival, with no one turned around or quarantined.
“We didn’t have any Victorian people or people who had been in Victoria in the past 14 days fly in today, so that’s really great news,” he said.
“In terms of our border checkpoints, i’m not aware of any large scale turn-arounds or people who are not doing the right thing.”
It comes after Virgin Australia today announced the return of flights between the Gold Coast and Adelaide.
Queensland Airports Limited CEO Chris Mills said the service would be popular with South Australians keen to escape winter temperatures and holiday on the Gold Coast.
“It is pleasing to see this Gold Coast-Adelaide service brought forward with support from the Queensland Government. This will provide a much-needed boost to local tourism businesses,” he said.
Great to welcome interstate guests back to the Gold Coast today, as travel restrictions ease for everyone but visitors from Victoria. We celebrated with news @VirginAustralia will resume flying between @gcairport and @AdelaideAirport from 21 July – a welcome restart for us! pic.twitter.com/yFQxCwqVsf
— Gold Coast Airport (@gcairport) July 10, 2020