Heavy traffic as Queensland reopens to interstate travellers
QUEENSLAND'S borders have opened for the first time in months, with travellers braving huge congestion on border roads and facing packed arrival halls at airports.
There was cheering and waving as travellers crossed the border into Queensland for the first time in months at midday, with the Gold Coast's top cop comparing the scene at the border to "almost like New Year's Eve".
Speaking at the Coolangatta checkpoint about an hour after the border reopened at noon, Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said things were so far going relatively smoothly.
He said motorists were currently taking about 30 minutes to get through the three main Gold Coast border checkpoints at Coolangatta, Tugun and Bilinga.
"Obviously if we see greater volumes of traffic, those delay times will blow out," Supt Wheeler said.
"I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that some people may encounter those delays of hours not minutes. That's regrettable but it's unavoidable."
Interstate arrives who queued for hours to make it past border checkpoints have had to contend with a second wave of traffic on the Gold Coast.
Cars coming from northern NSW have spent up to two hours crawling through border crossings only to hit fresh traffic snarls through Coolangatta and Tugun.
Traffic was moving at a snail's pace along the Gold Coast Highway at Tugun, while the local streets of Coolangatta have also been choked.
The road from Tugun to the M1 has also been bumper-to-bumper with motorists who tried to avoid the busier highway checkpoint.
Supt Wheeler urged people to delay their trips to try to minimise the congestion.
"I know midday came and it's almost like New Year's Eve's been declared," he said.
"It's great that, yes, we are open but we've also got to have a common sense approach and also show patience and understanding."
Supt Wheeler said it was 'disappointing' that some motorists were trying to dodge the checkpoints by going to border roads which were barricaded.
The reopening comes as Queensland once again reports no new cases in the past 24 hours, with just two cases remaining active out of the total of 1068.
The influx wasn't just on our roads. At Brisbane's domestic airport terminal, loved ones separated by months of tough restrictions were reunited.
Passengers from Sydney were among the first to arrive after 12pm, with couples long separated by lockdown seen embracing and crying, while relatives ran through the crowds to hug each other for the first time since Christmas.
More flights are scheduled for this afternoon, with the airport bustling for the first time in months.
It's a far cry from the height of lock down over the traditionally busy Easter break, when Brisbane Airport was deserted.
Speaking from Coolangatta earlier today, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said patience would definitely be a virtue today.
"We know there's going to be lengthy delays," she told ABC 24.
"So I've been saying all week to everybody to please plan your journey, don't be rushing across the border today because you'll be sitting in the traffic for hours.
"If you can delay your journey, delay it."
The new requirements have prompted police to warn drivers to pack plenty of fluids and snacks for the journey.
On top of the statutory declaration motorists must carry that says they have not been in Victoria for 14 days, a new burden of proof has been imposed on all travellers. From noon Friday they must have documents such as accommodation bills, receipts or photos with a date and time stamp to show they have not been in Victoria where coronavirus cases are surging.
Gold Coast Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said travellers needed to prove to police they had not been in COVID-19 hot spots.
Ms Palaszczuk said police would be checking border passes and warned fines would be issued if there were false declarations.
Almost 250,000 people have already filled out declarations to visit Queensland so far.
Supt Wheeler warned Queensland could mirror Victoria's plight - which has entered six weeks of lockdown - "if we don't get this right".
"People need to do the right thing, plan their journeys according and understand unfortunately at the moment this is the new normal," he said.
Queensland's border will reopen to all states and territories except Victoria from midday, as the southern state grapples with an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases.
It's not known when Victorians will be allowed into the Sunshine State, with the Premier saying community transmission needed to be brought under control.
"There is a lot of community transmission in Victoria at the moment," she said.
"I'm very sorry that Victorians can't come here.
"I know there's a lot of families that are going to be separated during this time as well, it is going to be very difficult but no one could have foreseen that coronavirus was going to have the impact it has had both from a health perspective and an economic perspective on our country and around the world."
Ms Palaszczuk will today advocate for fewer international arrivals at National Cabinet, saying she'd already made that clear to Scott Morrison.
"I said that earlier this week I backed in Premier Mark McGowan, I think it's very important that we have less flights coming in at the moment until we get everything under control here in Australia," she said.
The Premier warned what's happening in Victoria could happen in Queensland.
Originally published as From lockdown to gridlock: 20km queues feared at border