Australia’s Sunshine State will be turning away all visiting Sydneysiders as soon as this weekend.
The prospect of a Trans-Tasman “travel bubble” between Australia and New Zealand seems ever more distant as Victoria and New South Wales battle their own coronavirus outbreaks and other states step up border restrictions. At a press conference yesterday, Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that greater Sydney would be considered a Covid-19 hot spot from Saturday morning, with residents of Australia’s largest metropolitan area barred from Queensland starting at 1 a.m. tonight.
Palaszczuk told journalists the decision was based on the increasing number of locally transmitted cases, with growing clusters linked to several Sydney restaurants. New South Wales confirmed 19 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday and a further 18 this morning; only four of the 37 cases recorded over the past two days involved those in hotel quarantine. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian was given no warning about Queensland’s imminent entry ban. “That’s a matter for the Queensland Premier, but it would have been nice if she told me,” she said. Berejiklian added that the economic impact of the travel restriction would end up hurting Queensland more than New South Wales.
In related news, Queensland has recorded its first cases detected outside quarantine facilities since May. Palaszczuk said she was “absolutely furious” that two 19-year-olds who returned from Melbourne via Sydney had disregarded instructions to self-isolate and tested positive after being out in the community over an eight-day period. The teenagers allegedly falsified information on their border declaration passes, thus avoiding mandatory hotel quarantine upon arrival. They are due to appear in court after recovering from the virus. Queensland authorities have begun extensive contact tracing efforts and have issued health alerts for 11 locations in the Brisbane area, including schools, restaurants, and a medical center, visited by the two patients. One close contact has already tested positive.