The Queensland border slammed shut to anyone from New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, in a bid to stop travellers using interstate loopholes to get into the state.
As of 1am on Saturday, anyone who has come from these three areas will be turned around at the border and any Queensland residents trying to come home can only arrive by air and must pay the $2800 cost for their two-week stay in hotel COVID-19 quarantine.
Victoria continues to grapple with a COVID-19 outbreak and NSW is recording small numbers of new daily cases. Meanwhile, the ACT was included in the new restrictions because a man allegedly drove from Sydney to Canberra before flying on to Cairns, via Brisbane.
Gold Coast Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said Queensland residents had poured back across the border in recent days in the lead up to the hard border closure.
Traffic delays at the Gold Coast border checkpoint on Friday afternoon exceeded an hour.
Police were also kept busy ensuring nobody who visited an already-declared COVID-19 hotspot in greater Sydney or Victoria, slipped through the net.
Between 4pm on Wednesday and 4pm on Thursday, 54 interstate arrivals were ordered into hotel quarantine after visiting a known hotspot and that continued into Friday.
Chief Superintendent Wheeler said a 78-year-old man was questioned on a bus trying to cross the Gold Coast border checkpoint on Friday and it was discovered he recently visited Sydney, so he was ordered into self-funded mandatory two weeks’ hotel quarantine.
There are two main exemptions available — an F pass for freight workers and an X pass for border community residents. Apart from that, “exemptions will be few and far between”, police said.
Chief Superintendent Wheeler said those moving freight were allowed to cross the borders under “tight restrictions” and those workers were asked to get tested for COVID-19 every seven days.
A border bubble has been created to help those communities either side of the Queensland-NSW border still be able to access essential services, such as medical appointments.
It encompasses the Tweed Heads Shire Council area and Gold Coast City Council boundaries, with included residents allowed to move within those two areas, but no further.
“If you reside in a border zone, you are free to travel across the border to the Gold Coast City Council area, but you cannot go any further than that,” Chief Superintendent Wheeler said.
“If you reside in Tweed Heads and you decide to go to Byron Bay for a surf, you then are not able to come [back] into Queensland.”
Meanwhile, exemptions have also been put in place for specialist workers and construction workers.
“Specialist workers may include people in law enforcement, the military and people who hold government official jobs,” Chief Superintendent Wheeler said.
“Construction workers who live within the bubble – for instance a Tweed Head builder – may, under certain circumstances, be able to go outside the Gold Coast City Council area.
“The only time you [a construction worker] can actually leave the current bubble zone is someone who lives in the Tweed, they’re a builder and they’re doing some essential construction in Brisbane.
“They would be able to go to Brisbane. However, there would be very strict conditions around that.”
Chief Superintendent Wheeler implored those contemplating crossing the interstate boundaries to read the state government’s FAQ information sheet.
“It’s really important people get their heads around this,” he said.
“I know it is complex, I know there are a lot of moving parts in this, we will be patient, but people need to also be patient and keep up with the announcements.”
Toby Crockford is a breaking news reporter at the Brisbane Times