Struggling local businesses and people living in border communities are breathing a sigh of relief, with the announcement all Queensland road border checkpoints will be removed from next Tuesday.
It comes as the sunshine state prepares to welcome back people from Greater Sydney and Victoria on December 1, after the two states reached 28 days of no unlinked community transmission of coronavirus.
After nine long months, State Disaster Coordinator Steve Gollschewski has confirmed the border pass system will also no longer be required.
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“This means people will be able to freely travel across the Queensland border without needing a border pass,” Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.
“So the great thing for people coming into Queensland, and particularly our neighbours across the border, is it will be back to normal for them.”
However, residents and visitors who have been in the declared hotspot of Adelaide within the previous 14 days will still be required to fill out a border declaration pass and undergo mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense.
“Unfortunately, those people who have been in Adelaide or any hotspot that may be declared, will need to complete the online border pass application, fly into Queensland as they won’t be allowed to travel across road borders, and undergo mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days,” Gollschewski said.
Police have confirmed officers will also still be undertaking random patrols and intercepts, with a particular focus on vehicles bearing South Australian number plates.
“While you won’t see the fixed checkpoints at the Queensland borders anymore on the road, police will still be conducting random intercepts of vehicles and checking people that may have come from South Australia,” Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.
He also confirmed that as a result of the operation coming to a close, more than 200 police officers will now be able to return to their normal daily duties – which he says is a “great relief”.
“I’d like to acknowledge the efforts of all of our police officers and in particular our partner agencies the Australian Defence Force, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and the Department of Transport and Main Roads and everyone who has worked on our border control operation,” Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.
“They’ve been the people who have been at the frontline through freezing cold nights and hot days and it’s having done that outstanding job since the 27th of March, which is some nine months ago, in protecting Queensland.”
Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said the border control announcement was an important milestone in the road to recovery from COVID-19.
“Introducing border controls in Queensland has not been done for more than 100 years and it has been a mammoth operation,” he said.
“We know it has been difficult for many people, particularly those in border communities and I would like to thank those residents for their patience and cooperation.”
If the COVID-19 situation begins to deteriorate again, Gollschewski said police have the ability to reinstate the border checkpoints within a matter of hours.
“We are ready, if needed, to reinstate these type of controls,” he said.
During the course of the operation, more than one million vehicles have been intercepted at our road borders, 640,000 domestic passengers checked and over 50,000 people ordered into quarantine.
Out of the millions of checks conducted, just 2500 fines have been issued.