Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has backed up her tough talk from the past 48 hours and announced she will formally shut her border to Greater Sydney.
The restrictions, which come into effect from 1am on Saturday, include 31 local government areas, and were triggered after two cases were detected in the state from women returning from Melbourne via Sydney.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian quickly hit back and said the decision would hurt Queensland far more than NSW, which was in the “strongest position in the nation”.
Wednesday morning’s dramatic escalation of restrictions began when Queensland announced it had two new coronavirus cases, which were allegedly the result of the “negligence” of two 19-year-olds.
The women, from Logan and Acacia Ridge in Brisbane’s south, returned to the state from Victoria via Sydney and, according to the Premier, gave authorities misleading information.
“We are in extraordinary times at the moment and we have to do everything we can,” said Premier Palaszczuk. “The next 24 to 48 hours is very crucial here in Queensland.”
Premier Berejiklian said the only effect for her residents was limiting their freedom to move around the country.
“The economic consequences in Queensland or South Australia will hurt much more than it hurts NSW, we are in the strongest position in the nation, which we want to maintain obviously,” she said.
“It’s always finding that right balance, so making sure that the virus is in check, but also providing sufficient freedoms for our residents.”
The pair were previously engaged in a tit-for-tat row weeks ago when the Queensland Premier suggested the border wouldn’t open in Australia until September.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison played down the row by arguing an “all or nothing” border response does not serve states well.
Queensland only opened its border to NSW on 10 July but, shortly after, effectively banned people from entering the state if they had passed through selected “hotspot” areas, including the western Sydney City of Fairfield, Campbelltown and Liverpool. Now, all of Greater Sydney is essentially a hotspot.
Today’s announcement is the culmination of a series of statements from Premier Palaszczuk, who on Tuesday advised residents not to travel to NSW.
The words will likely be greeted with dismay by Qantas and Virgin Australia, with both businesses betting big on winter tourism.
In June for instance, Jetstar sale tickets, including those between Sydney and the Gold Coast, were selling at a rate of 220 per minute, nearly 40 times higher than the normal rate of bookings.
In total, 10,000 Jetstar $19 tickets sold out in just four hours. Panicked customers will now be in two minds whether to fly, and what rights they will have to cancel or get their money back for flights or accommodation.