UPDATE: Wednesday, March 25
The Queensland Government has just announced more detail of who will be able to enter its state after the border officially closes at midnight tonight, Wednesday.
An online permit system will be made available for exemption applications, but in the meantime 'work around' solutions will be used, so expect delays.
Any non-exempt person entering the state has to self-isolate for 14 days, with stiff fines for those who don't. This also applies to exempt persons (and returning Queensland residents) who have travelled in the last 14 days to particular COVID-19 hotspots of Australia.
Of particular interest to Tenterfield and Jennings residents is the exemption which allows people who live near the border who ordinarily work in Queensland to continue to travel for that work or study. It only applies if the person does not propose to stay in Queensland for longer than reasonably necessary to attend work.
It also applies when people living in these border communities travel interstate to obtain essential goods and services, including to attend school or child care or obtain medical or other essential services. Travelling across the border to buy non-essential items is not allowed.
Also exempted are those living outside of Queensland who provide critical services to Queensland:
- National/state security
- Essential health services
- Emergency services
- Transport of goods or freight including food
- Critical maintenance/repair to critical infrastructure in Queensland
- Construction, mining/energy/agribusinesses (and see below for specific requirements for FIFO workers in these sectors)
- Federal, state or local government workers who are required to enter to Queensland to perform official duties.
There's also a general compassionate grounds exemption, as well as specific exemptions for those living outside of Queensland who:
- Are carers/relatives of dependant individuals in Queensland
- Need to obtain essential medical treatment including visiting terminally ill relatives in Queensland
- Are interstate boarding school students where school is closed
- Are required to comply with the law to travel to Queensland (for example, Family Court, parole/bail conditions etc.).
FIFO (Fly In, Fly Out) workers in construction, commercial fishing, forestry, mining, petroleum, energy or agribusiness industries are still allowed to enter Queensland to work without having to undertake self-quarantine. However, they will be required to provide evidence that they are FIFO workers, who they are working for, and that they are entering Queensland to go directly to work.
Queensland police and other emergency officers will be responsible for enforcing the measures.
If a person is not exempt from the quarantine requirements but still wants to enter Queensland, the enforcement officers will give them a direction that requires them to stay in a stated place, restrict their movements, restrict contact with others or other directions as deemed necessary for the 14 day period of quarantine.
If a person fails to comply with the directions, an emergency officer may use reasonable force to enforce the direction. Non-compliance can attract penalties: $13,345 for individuals and $66,672.50 for corporations. It is possible the enforcement officer can issue on the spot tickets for lesser amounts ($1334.50 for individuals, or $6,672.50 for corporations).
Queensland Roadtek crews were working on the New England Highway at Wallangarra/Jennings near where the old 'tick gates' were located as the sun descended on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see what the morning brings.
Details of the closure of the state border 20 kilometres north of Tenterfield are starting to emerge, after the announcement by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday of the impending action caused great concern for those whose lives straddle the border.
While Ms Palaszczuk said that the primary aim of the closure is to stop people heading to the Sunshine State on school holidays, the repercussions for locals is daunting.
"We do not want people to come to Queensland to have a holiday break," she said.
"People should be staying in their own state, staying in their own suburbs and, as much as possible, staying in their homes."
Essential travel due to work commitments will be allowed, as will travel for medical appointments. Interstate freight services will continue.
The RBT-like police presence that locals are accustomed to seeing at the border may become commonplace as travellers' credentials are checked.
Those living in the area may be issued a permit to display on their cars to make border crossings more efficient. The logistics are still being sorted out but will need to be in place by midnight on Wednesday, when the travel ban takes effect. As it is, some Jennings residents need to cross the border for basic services like collecting their mail.
Ms Palaszczuk said she doesn't want anyone who doesn't need to come interstate to travel to Queensland.
"If you are living in the southeast you should not be doing any non-essential travel during the school break."
She said Queensland does not have the resources to spend on contact-tracing those who aren't residents, to ensure they're observing the 14-day quarantine.
"So unless you are returning home to Queensland, or you are coming to Queensland for an essential purpose like work or a medical appointment, or freight issues, then the border is closed to you."
The Queensland Disaster Management Group met Tuesday morning to nut out the details of who could and couldn't cross the border without going into 14 day self-isolation.
Ms Palaszczuk said Prime Minister Scott Morrison said very clearly on Sunday that all non-essential travel should not be undertaken inter- and intrastate.
"I don't take the decision lightly, and I'm sure in 1918 they didn't take the decision lightly to close the border (to stop the spread of Spanish Flu)."
It will be interesting come Thursday to see what happens at the border, including NSW parents dropping off students to the school bus stop at Wallangarra although few continue to catch the bus from Tenterfield or Jennings.