Queensland’s border closes, leaving millions locked out after last-minute scramble

Thousands of people have made a last-minute dash for entry into Queensland before the border was officially closed to Greater Sydney just after midnight.

Passengers packed dozens of extra flights arriving at Brisbane Airport and long traffic delays were experienced at the vehicle crossing checkpoint on the Gold Coast.

As of 1:00am, residents of the Greater Sydney area — or anyone travelling there in the future — are banned from entering the Sunshine State.

Queenslanders returning home after the deadline must now quarantine in a hotel for 14 days at their own expense.

Professional boxer Sam Ah-See was one of the few who made it into Queensland on a late flight yesterday, just in time for an important fight in Townsville next month.

The 29-year-old is on his way to fight in the Jeff Horn and Tim Tszyu event on August 26, a career highlight for the up-and-coming athlete.

But he was worried his opponent had not made the cut-off.

“It would have been a bummer if I missed it, but I’m not sure I’ll get to fight if he doesn’t make it,” Ah-See said.

Professional boxer Sam Ah-See wearing a face mask as he stands in the baggage collection carousel area of the Brisbane airport.
Professional boxer Sam Ah-See was one of the few who made it into Queensland on a late flight yesterday.(Supplied)

Sydneysiders Zoe and Jennifer Elsworth also came through on one of the last flights out of Sydney.

The pair were meant to settle on their new home in Queensland next week and would have missed the milestone because of the restrictions.

“We had the flights booked for Sunday so we had to reschedule them before the border closes,” Jennifer Elsworth said.

Andrew Watson, also from Sydney, booked a holiday flight to Brisbane as soon as he heard the border was going into lockdown.

“I would have been devastated if I couldn’t have gone, because I wanted to get away from these cold conditions,” he said.

“I’ll get in just in time, have a few days up in the warmth, and then return to Sydney.

Airport staff and Queensland police officers at a security checkpoint at Brisbane airport to screen passengers.
Queenslanders returning home after the deadline must now quarantine in a hotel for 14 days at their own expense.(Supplied)

The Greater Sydney hotspot declaration shuts out about 5 million potential visitors, on top of the 6 million people already banned in Victoria.

Major airline operators have announced severe cutbacks in flight routes because of the drop in demand.

Qantas and Jetstar will reduce their services from Sydney to Queensland, including temporarily suspending flights to Coolangatta and Cairns as of Monday.

Virgin also cancelled all direct flights between Sydney and Cairns.

Queensland locked out of other states

As Queensland locked out its southern neighbours, other state leaders were taking similar action against the Sunshine State.

The Tasmanian Government announced it would soon ban travel into the state from a number of yet to be announced “Queensland hotspots”.

The cautious approach was being taken after a cluster of Queensland cases emerged, linked with two women accused of bringing the virus into the state from Victoria.

The women were charged with lying on their border declaration forms and fraud, and tested positive for coronavirus eight days after returning to Queensland.

Speaking on Friday, Tasmania director of public health Mark Veitch said the “hotspots” would include places visited by the women.

“There are a number of … places we now know they spent several hours in, and it’s possible those are the sorts of settings where infection can be transmitted,” Dr Veitch said.

“We will be adding those locations to a list of what we call ‘affected premises’.”

Other state leaders, including in South Australia, indicated they were also considering tightening restrictions for Queensland residents.

The Northern Territory Chief Medical Officer has declared Brisbane, Ipswich and Logan as coronavirus hotspots.

From midnight tonight anyone arriving in the Northern Territory from these areas will be required to quarantine, at their own cost.