Victorians stuck in Queensland hopeful border will reopen if no more coronavirus cases are reported


Five-months pregnant Silvia Serra is one of many anxious Victorians stuck in Queensland who are crossing their fingers that no more coronavirus cases are reported from the Greater Brisbane area today.

Ms Serra, from South Melbourne, is in Port Douglas and isn’t allowed to fly home because she and her partner were in Brisbane on January 2 and 3.

The Victorian Government shut the border on Friday to anyone who had been in the hot spot since January 2.

The decision was made after a Brisbane quarantine hotel nurse tested positive to the more infectious UK strain of the virus and the Queensland Government imposed a three-day lockdown.

Since then, no more cases of community transmission have been reported and the Victorian health authorities said they would review the situation when the lockdown ends at 6:00pm today.

Needing to get back for medical appointments, including her important 22-week scan, Ms Serra said she was hopeful that another day of zero cases would be enough for the Victorian Government to let them back in.

“They’re kind of stuck in no man’s land, because they were like us just returning from family holidays or summer holidays. And now they don’t know where to stay and they have to wait.”

Victorian Government playing wait and see

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley yesterday said it was “reassuring” to see Queensland had not recorded any locally acquired coronavirus infections on Saturday or Sunday.

However, he said the state would “await further advice from our Queensland colleagues” before making any decision on the border.

COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said they would also have “more to say in the coming days” about the thousands of people stuck in NSW who want to return to Victoria.

“I’m very grateful for the patience of people who are still waiting to come back to the state,” he said.

“We will look to bring you back as safely and as quickly as we possibly can.”

No more cases should see border closures lifted, says epidemiologist

Professor Catherine Bennett, chair in epidemiology at Deakin University, said the closure of Victoria’s border with NSW was a precaution in case the coronavirus had spread to regional areas of the state.

“I think the hotspot will still stay at hotspot for a while longer in terms of travel restrictions — so Greater Sydney and surrounding areas where the cases are,” she said.

“But with very few exposures in regional NSW, and no cases resulting locally from those exposures, I think they will be able to look favourably at opening up the borders up with NSW and maintaining some restrictions around hotspot travel.”

A woman with brown curly hair and glasses smiles at the camera.
Professor Catherine Bennett says the Victorian Government may ease border restrictions this week.(Supplied)

Professor Bennett said the Greater Brisbane area lockdown was intended to prevent any spread of the virus and buy time to identify and quarantine close contacts of the infected case.

If no more cases were found then she expected that the Commonwealth would decide the Greater Brisbane area no longer fit the definition of a hotspot.

“If that changes, then that should change the travel restrictions and so on,” she said.

However, she said that even if the Queensland Government decided to lift the lockdown some precautions — such as masks — may remain in place.

It also might take a little while for the travel restrictions to ease, she added.

“Tuesday would be good. Let’s hope.

“I think if people’s expectations are that they will stop the lockdown on Monday, and then everything will be back to normal … it just might work a little slower than that.”

‘You’ve just got to keep adjusting’

A CityCat crosses the Brisbane River underneath the Story Bridge
An unknown number of Victorians who visited the Brisbane area are stuck in Queensland until the border restrictions ease.(ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

Karen Walters, from the Glen Eira area in Melbourne, drove up by car to Brisbane with her husband and two children so has to wait for both the Queensland and NSW borders to reopen before they can go home.

Ms Walters said the family was also concerned that the Victorian Government might decide they needed to self-isolate for two weeks once they got back, which would impact on the children going back to school.

From Brisbane originally, the Walters family moved down to Melbourne just before Easter last year, in time for the lockdown there.

Ironically, they extended their Queensland holiday because they were concerned Melbourne’s Black Rock cluster might prompt another lockdown in Victoria.

“If they open the borders this week, we’ll probably come back on the weekend but if they say you have to quarantine, then I don’t know,” Ms Walters said.

“We’ve changed plans multiple times with this trip. You’ve just go to keep adjusting.”

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