BRISBANE, Australia — The Australian state of Queensland will demand a cut to overseas arrivals, saying the federal government is amplifying the coronavirus threat by letting in too many foreigners.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will tell the national cabinet that hotel quarantine poses the single greatest threat to Australia as the pandemic rolls on.
Palaszczuk tweeted “BREAKING: New restrictions from 1am Tuesday 29 June for local government areas of Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan City, Moreton Bay, Redlands, Sunshine Coast, Noosa, Somerset, Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and Gold Coast. These measures are about keeping Queenslanders safe.”
Her deputy Steven Miles has claimed half the people returning to Australia are not citizens or permanent residents, but others traveling on exemptions that are being liberally granted by the federal government.
Meanwhile, he said, the number of Australians waiting to return home has remained relatively unchanged since the start of the year.
“We understand that only around half of those returning to Australia from international locations are Australian permanent residents or citizens,” he told reporters on June 28.
“And while clearly there would be some justification for some exemptions, whether that should be thousands per week, putting our community at risk, is a concern.”
Media agencies have been told other jurisdictions share Queensland’s concerns and have not been given federal government data on exemptions, despite asking for it.
New South Wales Health tweeted “New South Wales Health is treating 88 Covid-19 cases, two of whom are in intensive care. Most cases (92 percent) are being treated in non-acute, out-of-hospital care, including returned travelers in the Special Health Accommodation.”
The department also released a public health alert with a list of venues that might transmit the variant.
Queensland is on the verge of another lockdown after yet another case of the virus leaking out of hotel quarantine.
A female mine worker became infected with the highly contagious Delta variant at a Northern Territory mine before returning home. She was active in the Queensland community for a day before she tested positive.
She caught the virus from a Victorian miner who transited through Brisbane on June 18 on his way to the Northern Territory. The man spent nine hours in a quarantined hotel where the Delta variant had spread between international arrivals.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has said it is not usual to mix domestic and international quarantine cases, but cited pressure on our hotels from so many overseas arrivals.
Miles said Queensland would not be seeking to slash international arrivals if the federal government had approved its plan for a regional quarantine facility outside Toowoomba.
“We have been saying for months and months and months now that hotel quarantine isn’t working out,” he told reporters.
“I think the federal government needs to be stricter with the exemptions that they are providing to people to come here.
“Hotel quarantine of international travelers is … (by) far and away from our single greatest source of Covid into our country and into our communities.”
Queensland is still demanding the federal government approve its plans for a purpose-built quarantine center outside Toowoomba, even though Canberra has repeatedly rejected it and wants one built on Commonwealth land in Brisbane.
Miles says if both 1000-bed facilities are built, reliance on hotel quarantine will be dramatically less. Currently, there are 2300 people in hotel quarantine in the state.
Government figures released last month show about 35,000 Australians remain stranded overseas, waiting to come home. In December last year, the figure was 36,000.
(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Praveen Pramod Tewari. Map by Urvashi Makwana)
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