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Queensland has opened its borders today so what can we expect as coronavirus restrictions ease

Melbourne mother Mel Currey and her partner Hylton Shaw have been on the road to Brisbane since last Friday, their baby boy Marlon nestled in the back of their car.

This morning they will have a large family reunion with grandparents and family at a welcome home party in Red Hill.

While aware of the need to avoid too much kissing and hugging, the couple, who has been in lockdown in Victoria for three months, cannot wait to introduce baby Marlon to family members.

Thousands of tourists are bound for Queensland but many venues remain restricted on numbers and some are still closed.

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The couple is among thousands of holiday-makers celebrating the tearing down of Queensland’s barriers after 250 days with them firmly shut.

From 1:00am, the Sunshine State was opened to all of Victoria and Greater Sydney, but the border remains shut to South Australia at this stage due to its latest outbreak.

A smiling baby boy on his mother's lap in a car.
Grandparents and family in Brisbane will meet baby Marlon for the first time today.(Supplied: Hylton Shaw)

‘Complex and mammoth operation’

On the Gold Coast, pizzas were handed out to the first groups of “border crossers” by police as they celebrated like it was New Year’s Eve.

Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said people no longer needed passes, but mandatory quarantine rules were still in place for any South Australians wanting to come up for a holiday.

The notorious “wheeler wall” has been pulled down and the rest of the border infrastructure including SES tents and hundreds of metres of concrete barriers along the M1 will be removed over coming days.

He said it had been a “complex and mammoth operation”, but it was hoped traffic would still flow without long delays.

“It will be worth it in the end,” he said.

So-called 'wheeler wall' for traffic on Dixon Street at Coolangatta on the Gold Coast.
The “wheeler wall” is being pulled down and the rest of the border infrastructure including SES tents will be removed over coming days.(ABC News: Jennifer Huxley)

His officers were happy they were finally being let off the “border hook” after patrolling barriers since June.

“This was not something we wanted to do of course, but we had to bring into effect the Chief Health Officer’s directions and it has worked.”

M1 traffic heading from New South Wales into a border checkpoint on Queensland's Gold Coast.
Hundreds of metres of concrete barriers along the M1 will be removed over coming days.(ABC News: Jennifer Huxley)

Party in Cairns

Some keen Sydney-siders flew in just five minutes after the borders opened on a perfectly timed Qantas flight this morning.

Welcome back display at Cairns Airport to interstate visitors for December 1, 2020.
Welcome back display at Cairns Airport.(Supplied: Cairns Airport)

It will be one big party at Cairns Airport when the first flight from Melbourne lands around 8:15am, with live music and scuba divers dressed up ready to take people out on the reef.

Holiday-makers will also be welcomed with gifts of tropical flowers and fruit and the odd crocodile and cassowary will be on hand to say hello as well.

Archway floral display at Cairns Airport to interstate visitors for December 1, 2020.
Holiday-makers will also be welcomed with gifts of tropical flowers and fruit.(Supplied: Cairns Airport)

To hug or not

Queensland influenza virologist Kirsty Short warned people not to be complacent.

“We need to be aware that there is still a risk of COVID-19 in the community and that is true whether you live in Melbourne or Queensland,” she said.

“I think this is going to make life a lot easier though for people who have been separated.

Dr Short said she was flying to Melbourne this weekend to see her elderly parents for the first time in a year.

“We had the discussion about whether we want to hug or not,” she said.

“What we have elected to do we have made sure if any of us have any symptoms whatsoever, the trip is cancelled.

“We have also tried to make sure we are not doing high-risk activities and not heading out to large gatherings.”

She said as for the family get-together, they had decided to have an outdoor barbecue.

“Again, just trying to mitigate those risk factors, but I do understand the need to hug your family after so long,” she said.

“We have to also trust our track and trace system, which has actually been incredibly good.”

‘Difficulties getting staffing’

Treasurer Cameron Dick said all he wanted for Christmas was “a stocking full of bookings for our hard-working tourism operators around the state”.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) general manager Brett Kepernick said tourists from New South Wales and Victoria potentially bring in $20 million a day into Queensland during the Christmas-New Year season.

Mr Kepernick said opening the border was “certainly putting a bit of festive season back into Christmas”.

He said two accommodation operators from the Sunshine Coast had taken $80,000 worth of bookings within two hours of last week’s border opening announcement.

“It will certainly make a huge difference for Christmas, but the real problem is a lot of the regions are having difficulties getting staffing,” Mr Kepernick said.

“So even though we might be flooded now with people coming back to the state, we are going to find it difficult to service them.

“But we are hoping the system will elongate into the new year and months ahead because people have been cooped up for so long.”

He said it was “a fantastic day for the industry and one we have been eagerly awaiting”.


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