Queensland borders to close, forcing halt to NRL season, Premier confirms

Queensland will close its borders and force self-isolation for anyone arriving into the state from midnight Wednesday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced.

Mar 23, 2020, updated Mar 23, 2020
The Brisbane Broncos will meet Parramatta in the first march of the restarted NRL competition. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

The Brisbane Broncos will meet Parramatta in the first march of the restarted NRL competition. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

The move, revealed by the Premier on social media, also ensures that the National Rugby League season will have to be suspended with immediate effect.

Anyone entering Queensland from the air or by road will be forced to isolate themselves for 14 days from Wednesday night.

The state is closing its borders in a bid to stop COVID-19 in its tracks after a jump of 60 more cases were confirmed on Monday.

Finer details of the border closure will be finalised and released on Tuesday.

Health and government officials are trying to stop the virus from spreading, but they are desperate for citizens to play their part.

That means staying at home and avoiding in-person social interactions for weeks to curb its transmission.

Australians are now banned from mingling publicly and in large groups to comply with strict new social shutdown policies.

The national closure of bars, pubs, clubs, casinos, indoor sports venues and religious venues to control coronavirus is being enforced in Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

Everyone must take the new measures seriously.

Council elections and by-elections in Currumbin and Ipswich are going ahead on Saturday after postal voting and pre-polling periods were extended to avoid mass crowds.

Health Minister Steven Miles says there have been 60 additional cases confirmed overnight, bringing the state’s total to 319.

Queensland announced a task force looking at Brisbane’s party precinct at the weekend.

“I talked yesterday about some tough love and more will be rolled out in the coming weeks and months,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Monday.

“We know that if we are all playing our part and we’re all working together, we can absolutely get through this.”

She said there was light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel, but only if everyone followed orders to stay 1.5 metres away from each other, and the government’s social closure orders.

Holidays planned during the school break should also be cancelled.

Ms Palaszczuk defended the national decision to keep schools open, however parents can choose to keep their children at home where they can learn online.

Teachers are angered by the two sets of rules and say that no one is talking about what might happen to them if they’re infected by students.

They report public schools don’t have enough hand sanitiser and soap, and there is no possible way for them to enforce the four-square-metres per person rule in classrooms.

Unions are calling for schools to be closed from Wednesday.

Hospitals have begun rescheduling less urgent surgeries to make way for those in need of treatment for COVID-19, and Queenslanders are being urged to donate blood.

The arrival of four cruise ships in Sydney carrying thousands of people who have since spread across Australia has Mr Miles worried, with some passengers testing positive for the virus.

“We’re in the process of contacting all of them,” he said.

“They are all required to cut themselves off for 14 days.”

The move follows revelations that Queensland’s business community “has broken the internet’’ in a rush to tell the Government that it has to do more and act faster to save the economy.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland started a petition among its members and the public in an attempt to embarrass the State Government into raising its business relief measures to level that was similar to other states.

The response crashed the CCIQ website. It received 3000 signatures in a day, the most it has received for any issue.

CCIQ chief executive Stephen Tait said the response “has just broken the internet’’.

“Last time this happened was when we did this for the Queensland part-day public holiday on Christmas Eve,’’ Tait said on Twitter.

“It’s a clear signal small business isn’t happy that’s for sure.’’

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today welcomed the federal government’s $66 billion economic assistance package, which she said promised everyone “basically, essentially, a wage to get us through this coronavirus”.

Palaszczuk hinted the next state package would be focussed on individuals, rather than businesses.

“We’re having our own budget meetings and the Treasurer (Jackie Trad) will be making an announcement tomorrow about our package of further assistance, especially focussing on households as well,” Palaszczuk said.

NSW has an assistance package of $1.6 billion and Victoria $1.7 billion. Queensland has allocated about $500 million and has deferred its payroll tax collection for six months.

The Government said it was talking to business and industry groups about other measures to protect jobs and businesses.

CCIQ’s general manager of advocacy and policy Amanda Rohan said the organisation had been “inundated, utterly overwhelmed”.

“Everyone is affected right now and right now is when they need help,” Rohan said.

“The sheer fact we have had such a massive response should show the Premier the gravity of the situation.”

The petition included a letter to Palaszczuk which said she was not doing enough to help sole traders and small business owners.

“Other states have directed three to four times more assistance to their small sectors,’’ the letter said.

“Compared to other states, Annastacia Palaszczuk has not risen to the task.

“We desperately need help now, not tomorrow, not next month.”

The CCIQ said the deferral of payroll tax should be upgraded to a scrapping for six months.

“Delaying our tax deadlines won’t help. We need that money to keep our people in jobs, and for many business there may not be a later.

It wants financial support for sole trades and a waiving of electricity, waste and water fee increases.

“Owner-operators don’t want to sign up for Newstart if they don’t have to. Investing in their survival will cost less in the long run,” the CCIQ petition said.

“Other states have promised not to raise electricity, waste and water fees. Right now we need your government to make these expenses cheaper, not more expensive. Profiteering off small business utility bills is even more perverse when most of us are struggling to stay afloat.

“Premier, we need you to do more and act faster, for the sake of all Queenslanders.”

-with Sonia Kohlbacher and Tracey Ferrier, AAP

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