Travel plans for people trying to relocate to Queensland have been thrown into disarray with the announcement the state is pausing arrivals from interstate hotspots for the next fortnight.
- People who have already received a “right of entry” border pass will have to reapply
- The Premier said the pause would help manage quarantine hotel capacity
- Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said authorities didn’t give forewarning to stop a rush on people flocking to the airport
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Wednesday announced the two-week suspension, saying she was “really concerned” about the building pressure on Queensland’s hotel quarantine system.
The changes mean people travelling from COVID-19 hotspots will have to reapply for a “right of entry” border pass and will have to book into a hotel before being allocated a time for when they can arrive in Queensland.
Cameron McBryde was heading to Melbourne Airport for a 3:00pm flight to Brisbane on Wednesday with his partner and two young children when he received a call informing him of the new rules.
Mr McBryde said all the family’s belongings were already on route to Queensland and instead, they had to quickly find a hotel in Melbourne.
“We’re in this situation with a very young family, our lease is up here, we don’t have a house,” Mr McBryde said.
“We were prepared to be two-week residents in a hotel in Queensland but now that is up in the air as well.
“There’s not too much else the government is saying from the Queensland side that they can give us any information on basically until the 8th of September.”
Ms Palaszczuk said as of Tuesday, Queensland had 5,114 people currently in hotel quarantine, with 3,257 domestic arrivals and 1,857 from overseas staying across 22 hotels.
She said the pause would help manage hotel capacity — as authorities currently don’t know day-to-day how many people are coming into Queensland from interstate.
“That means we are scrambling for hotels and this has got to stop.”
Ms Palaszczuk said being able to offer home quarantine to interstate arrivals was “quite complicated” and wasn’t yet being closely considered as an option.
Anyone with an exemption for medical or compassionate purposes will still be allowed to enter hotel quarantine.
The two-week suspension halting all travellers from New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT took effect from midday yesterday.
Short notice leaves travellers reeling
Mr McBryde said it was frustrating to learn of the pause with such short notice.
“To get that notification with such short delay, there’s no way that this was a non-avoidable outcome at some point. When did we know this? I was very frustrated.”
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said authorities didn’t give forewarning to stop a rush on people flocking to the airport.
“We have to do this otherwise a whole lot of people will be rushing to the airport to jump on planes,” Ms D’Ath said.
“What we’d have was an even greater problem because we’d have even greater surges than what we have seen over the last couple of weeks.
Ms D’Ath said everybody who had a “right of entry” pass, who was a Queensland resident or was seeking to relocate, would need to re-apply for their pass.
“Over the next fortnight we will then issue passes, but we will be allocating a time period for when people will be able to arrive in Queensland,” Ms D’Ath said.
“This will help us manage room capacity much better by knowing how many people are arriving and when, so we can make sure there’s a room allocated to them.
“What this will also allow is over the next fortnight it will ease capacity so that those who have exemptions already approved and apply for exemptions for compassionate reasons, end of life visits, attending funerals, that they’re going to have rooms available for them.”
‘I bet wrong’
James Kellie, who is currently living in Batemans Bay in New South Wales, was packing his bags for his Thursday morning flight to Brisbane when he heard the news.
The 31-year-old said he’d been waiting for the COVID-19 outbreak in New South Wales to ease before moving up to Queensland for job opportunities, but eventually decided to “bite the bullet” and enter via hotel quarantine.
“I did know it was going to cost a bit of money, I do have a bit of money set aside because I was moving, but I didn’t have that much,” Mr Kellie said.
“I was placing my bets, and obviously I bet wrong.
Mr Kellie said the uncertainty of when he’ll be able to move has left him “heavy-hearted”.
“There are people in far worse positions than myself but it is a bit devastating because it’s like ‘what’s it going to be like in another two weeks? And another two weeks after that? Will I ever get there?’
“Because I am paying for rent up in Queensland at the moment but I’m lucky that I’m able to situate myself with my parents where I can get by on very low rent and be a burden on them instead.”
Ms Palaszczuk said people who have had to cancel plans to relocate to Queensland in the next two weeks will soon be able to move.
“They’ll still be able to come home, we’re just having this pause for two weeks, then they just need to book the hotels and they’ll still be able to come home,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“I want them to come home, if people want to relocate here, I want them to relocate here but we just have to do it in a sensible and orderly fashion.”
Plans to move to Cairns scuttled
Pedro Gomez Nicolas and his partner Gary were just about to move from Victoria to Cairns, and go into hotel quarantine, when they heard they had been locked out of the state.
They sold their house in the Melbourne suburb of Werribee a month ago and their Cairns house is scheduled to settle next Wednesday.
Most of their belongings are packed in a container and their car is already up in Queensland.
Mr Gomez Nicolas, 53, said he had spent hours on the phone to Queensland and Victorian authorities with no answers, and he said he was extremely stressed.
“In one day, every single thing has collapsed and no-one is responsible or at least offering an alternative,” he said.
“Suddenly, you’re trapped.
“Between the two states, no-one is responding to us and no-one is trying to understand our circumstances.
“We are going to be homeless.”