‘Bring snacks’: Police warn of 20km gridlock at border
POLICE warn motorists crossing southern Queensland's border patrols into the Gold Coast will sit in 20km gridlock queues for hours as they conduct stiff new checks to weed out Victorians.
The Queensland borders reopen at noon today to all but Victorians with road barrier patrols staying in place in a bid to keep out coronavirus, which is surging in Melbourne.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who this week forecast "long delays" but no "chaos and confusion", toughened up entry requirements on Thursday.
The new requirements have prompted police to warn drivers to pack plenty of fluids and snacks for the journey.
On top of the statutory declaration motorists must carry that says they have not been in Victoria for 14 days, a new burden of proof has been imposed on all travellers. From noon Friday they must have documents such as accommodation bills, receipts or photos with a date and time stamp to show they have not been in Victoria where coronavirus cases are surging.
- The declaration must be renewed every seven days - even for residents near the border blockades simply picking children up from school or running day-to-day errands.
Gold Coast Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said travellers needed to prove to police they had not been in COVID-19 hot spots.
Police on patrol at the Tweed-Coolangatta barrier and the other entry points would "need to see documentation, such as accommodation bills, fuel receipts, a photograph with a date and time stamp in a noticeable location".
Supt Wheeler said it was "incumbent upon these people to prove" and "not the other way around for us top disprove".
"If in doubt, we'll just turn them around," he said. "People who don't have their documentation in place, they can expect to be in an inspection bay a bit longer."
Supt Wheeler said anyone flying directly from a hot spot into Gold Coast Airport from midday Friday would be refused entry and sent back on a return flight. He said passes expired because police "want to make sure your declaration is current".
But Supt Wheeler warned Queensland could mirror Victoria's plight - which has entered six weeks of lockdown - "if we don't get this right".
"People need to do the right thing, plan their journeys according and understand unfortunately at the moment this is the new normal," he said.
Tweed Byron Police Commander Superintendent Dave Roptell suggested drivers "have some snacks and water in the car".
"If choosing to cross the border in the next 72 hours, be aware we anticipate extensive delays at the major checkpoints - these delays could be more than a couple of hours, with queues potentially up to 20km long," he said.
"We are working with our counterparts over the border to ensure as smooth a transition to the new border pass system as possible, but we understand this will take time.
"If you do not need to cross the border on Friday, we are asking you to delay your travel for a couple of days to allow for the large influx of traffic to flow through the checkpoints."
Ms Palaszczuk took to Twitter to reveal a new ban on Victorians - previously they were able to enter if prepared to pay for their own two-week quarantine at a city hotel. But now that has also been outlawed because of the southern state's COVID-19 crisis.
Victorians will be almost totally blocked at the border and very few exemptions will apply. Victoria recorded 165 new coronavirus cases on Thursday and 134 on Wednesday, while Queensland recorded only one new COVID-19 case on Tuesday - the first in 11 days.
Two cases were still active in Queensland on Thursday, including one on the Coast.
"Given the developing situation in Victoria, Queensland is hardening its border," Ms Palaszczuk wrote.
"There are exemptions from quarantine for essential specialist workers, as well as for health, legal or compassionate grounds. Queensland's Chief Health Officer can also grant exemptions in exceptional circumstances. Very few exemptions will be granted. Truck drivers carrying freight will require a border pass renewed every seven days."
The Premier warned Queenslanders against travelling to Victoria and said returning residents would be allowed through, but must quarantine in a hotel for 14 days at their expense.
"Queensland continues to provide every assistance to Victoria to contain the current outbreak," she added.
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said Gold Coast Health had been asked to set up new pop-up clinics to test travellers with symptoms of coronavirus.
"There's a period of a week to 10 days where there is an escalated risk, where there's a risk people from New South Wales were in contact with people with Victoria before their border closed and they may enter Queensland during their incubation period - before they can be tested for COVID-19," he said.
"That's why we're announcing these strict new measures because we can't afford to import that risk from other states."
Almost 250,000 people have already filled out declarations to visit Queensland.
Originally published as 'Bring snacks': Police warn of 20km gridlock at border