Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Thursday morning her state will open its borders to NSW on Monday, 1 February.
However, it then subsequently emerged her NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian found out the news while appearing on a breakfast radio show, apparently having not been given any forewarning.
Queensland only opened to Greater Sydney on 1 December but shut again on 21 December following a cluster of COVID cases in the city’s Northern Beaches.
Today’s news will mark the third time the state has imposed and subsequently rescinded restrictions.
It comes as NSW is due to record a month without ‘unlinked’ or mystery cases of COVID – a key prerequisite required for Queensland to allow people to enter the state.
“Credit to New South Wales. They got on top of their cases,” said Premier Palaszczuk, defending her initial decision. “Our chief health officer was delighted last night when she briefed me and I think it’s great news. The border checkpoints will be coming down.
“It has been a really, really long haul, and it has been tough on everybody, but I’ve always maintained, I have to keep Queenslanders safe.
“It’s a great time for families to be reunited, but also, too, for people to plan their holidays, and I’m here in Cairns at the moment. They’re really feeling it at the moment.
“I think what we’ve seen is the hotspot program has been working very well, especially when we had the lockdown in Greater Brisbane, where I put to the national cabinet that everyone else should declare greater Brisbane a hotspot because I did.”
In a twist minutes later, it emerged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian apparently found out the news when told by radio host Ben Fordham, who was interviewing her at the time the information filtered through.
She had previously been vocal in attacking state leaders in not communicating with her prior to making border decisions.
She said that while she welcomed the “fantastic” news, she hoped that borders wouldn’t close again if future clusters emerged.
“I don’t think it should mean the whole state is punished … we’ve got a very sound quarantine system around Australia but within our own country, we should be allowed to move around freely,” Premier Berejiklian argued.
Queensland’s announcement comes a week after Victoria opened to all but one Sydney LGA.
It also emerged that South Australia will partially relax restrictions to NSW, too – with those from Greater Sydney allowed to enter without quarantine but on the condition that they undertake a COVID test and isolate while they wait for the result.
SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said, “So we’re trying to find that middle ground position where we’re protecting South Australians but enabling as much travel as possible between states and territories, so this is a good step forward.
“We’ll continue to monitor the situation in NSW and as soon as we can remove that PCR testing for Greater Sydney we’ll certainly do that.”
Earlier this month, Australian Aviation reported how Sydney Airport’s domestic passenger traffic more than doubled in December as all state borders briefly opened to NSW.
In a statement to the ASX, the business revealed the numbers travelling through were 659,000, up from 308,000 in November.
However, that figure would likely have been far higher had the ‘Northern Beaches cluster’ of COVID cases not caused states to reimpose restrictions just before Christmas. The positive domestic figures were also still down 71.9 per cent from December 2019.