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Queensland to reopen border early as state nears 80% double vaccination

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Matt Roberts/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Fully vaccinated travellers told to expect delays at border when restrictions lift on 13 December

Queensland will open its borders to vaccinated travellers and thousands of returning residents from next week – almost five months since the state closed itself off from most of the rest of the country.

Second-dose vaccination rates in Queensland are expected to hit 80% by Friday, which coincides with the end of the local school year.

To allow authorities time to prepare for an expected rush to cross the border, the opening will be delayed until 1am on Monday, 13 December. That is still four days ahead of the initial estimate.

The premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, acknowledged the state’s border policy had caused hardship as thousands of Queenslanders have been locked out or unable to return.

Related: Queensland moves to automatically cancel Covid travel exemption requests amid delays

“I know people have said to me personally some of them haven’t seen their grandkids for the first time,” Palaszczuk said.

“Some of them haven’t seen their aunts and uncles, their mothers and fathers. This is going to be a very, very special time of the year.

“And as a government we’ve been very conscious of how important this is to reunite families. And once again, I want to say thank-you to everyone who’s been involved in our tremendous response.”

People can cross the border by road from 13 December if they are double-vaccinated and have had a recent negative Covid test. They will also be required to take another test five days after arriving.

Queensland closed its border for several months in 2020 during the first wave of the Covid pandemic. After the Delta variant outbreak in Sydney, the border to New South Wales was again closed, on 22 July.

In the meantime, thousands of Queenslanders and others seeking compassionate exemptions have been stuck outside the state, in some cases within hours from their homes.

The planned border reopening has been beset by uncertainty.

Palaszczuk said the state’s pandemic management had been successful. Queensland has recorded only seven Covid deaths; the national figure is now more than 2000.

But with vaccination rates now high enough to allow travellers to return, authorities acknowledge cases will spike. Lockdowns and mask mandates might also be needed.

“It’s been nearly two years,” Palaszczuk said.

“Tragically, we’ve lost seven lives. But the results have been really unprecedented compared to the rest of the world. Our businesses have been able to function. Our children have gone to school. And we’ve fought back and contained more than 50 separate outbreaks.

“And I’m very conscious that we want to give people certainty. We want to give families certainty, and business certainty.”

Authorities have warned that people attempting to enter Queensland on 13 December and soon afterwards should expect “extensive delays” and should “pack their patience”.

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