Queensland reopens its border - what do the public think?
Protective parents either make their child itch for freedom, or fear it. That’s perhaps the best way to describe the feeling in Queensland as the state reopens.
For every emotional reunion, there is a Queenslander balking at the state’s border reopening, 6 News has discovered on-the-ground.
With the state hitting 80% double-vaxxed last Thursday, the Government has done a 180, demolishing the impenetrable wall that Palaszczuk built around so-called fortress Queensland.
After hundreds of days of hard border closures, Queensland has transitioned to living with COVID, ditching the elimination strategy overnight.
The vaccinated are now allowed in from interstate hotspots, provided they take two PCR tests - one 72 hours prior to arrival and another 5 days after. Travellers who aren’t arriving from a hotspot don’t require testing.
Separated families and struggling business are rejoicing.
A Sunshine Coast local told 6 News, “I agree that we should be opening now. It’s the right time. It’s Christmas and we’ve done all the right things - so what can go wrong?”
Another added, “now there’s people going to be getting sick with COVID. Sooner or later everyone’s gonna have to deal with it.”
This shift in thinking cannot be reconciled with the state’s “hard and fast” approach, which saw so-called “trigger-happy” lockdown decisions only months ago.
Speaking to Sky News, the Premier conceded she has to change her mindset.
“We are going to see cases. We absolutely know that Queenslanders have to change our mindset. I mean, I’m going to have to change my mindset as well.” Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
The much-hyped reopening catapults a relatively sheltered state into the new challenge of living with COVID-19.
Queensland has recorded just over 2,100 cases and 7 deaths since the pandemic began - fewer cases in the past 2 years than Victoria has had in the previous 2 days.
The Premier credits her government’s tough border stance with keeping cases in Queensland low.
But following the lead of South Australia, which had minimal COVID before it opened just over a fortnight ago, Queensland is risking its virus-free streak for a return to normality.
Both states have limited experience with high case numbers.
Undeterred by Omicron, and confident the state can cope with a predicated surge in cases, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is promising she won’t backflip on the border reopening.
But for those who are extra cautious of COVID and have no interstate connections, keeping the borders closed and the virus out seems more attractive.
“I’m for the greater good. I’m of the view that you give a bit so everybody does well in the end," one local told 6 News.
Another Queenslander described the reopening as a “big gamble, I think, just for the tourism”.
Asked “If not now, when?”, she was unable to propose an alternative reopening date.
According to modeling, cases in Queensland could peak at 1200 a day in winter next year, and the State Government insists hospitals are ready.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles says “there will be a COVID wave that we should expect to start to see cases from [this] week, but we’ve had a long time to prepare - 680 days.”
Still, some locals believe the states hospital system will crack under the pressure of an inevitable COVID surge.
“The only thing I’m concerned about is the overload on the health service. That’s my issue. Having lived around here a while and knowing the limited resources that we do have up here - on the Sunshine Coast in particular - like in medical-wise, it could create a problem.”
Another local agreed, “They just don’t have enough beds, generally in any case… it’s in, out, get out, go home, die slowly.”
The state’s new Chief Health Officer, Dr John Gerrard, says he is “concerned that Queenslanders don’t appreciate what is about to happen. We have to open up, we cannot keep the borders closed.”
As for whether restrictions could be reintroduced, the Premier says she “hopes” Monday will mark the end of border closures but hasn’t ruled them out altogether.
Masks are likely to make a return, and localised lockdowns could occur in limited circumstances, such as for vulnerable communities with low vaccination rates.
But the reopening won’t apply for around 1 in 5 Queenslanders, who will see a return to the days of lock-down indefinitely.
Come December 17, several freedoms will expire for the unvaccinated. They’ll be denied potentially life-saving organ transplant surgery and refused entry to almost everywhere.
But not even Omicron could derail the plan to reopen for the unvaccinated.
In fact, Queensland’s reopening was brought forward to reflect the reaching of the 80% double-vaccination milestone.
On Thursday, the Northern Territory also reached the 80% double-vax milestone, meaning all vaccinated interstate travelers won’t have to quarantine from December 20. They will need to be tested twice - 72 hours before and after arrival.
Watch our special coverage here.