Sunnybank cluster hits double figures as another truck crashes into border barricade

After several infected truckies visited Queensland, one driver was refused entry for failing to produce a negative test result. Police allege he then went to another part of the border and crashed his semi-trailer through a barricade.

Sep 17, 2021, updated Sep 17, 2021
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski (AAP Image/Albert Perez)

Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski (AAP Image/Albert Perez)

Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski on Friday revealed the case of an interstate truck driver who was refused entry to Queensland at the Goondiwindi border checkpoint.

The damaged barricade at Keetah Crossing near Yelarbon. (QPS)

Gollschewski said the driver did not have the appropriate paperwork – specifically, evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result – and was ordered to stay in NSW.

Instead, police allege the 26-year-old man drove to the unmanned hard border at Keetah Crossing and, shortly before midnight on Wednesday, forced his truck through a gate and concrete blocks. CCTV footage helped identify the truck, which was located with the driver in Texas on Thursday.

The man was charged with wilful damage and failing to comply with a health direction – and sent back to NSW.

The truck was a prime mover, larger than the flat bed truck that was allegedly used in a similar incident on the Gold Coast this week after another driver was also refused entry.

Around a dozen truck drivers have brought COVID-19 into Queensland over the past month, most travelling back to NSW before the alarm was raised. Exposure sites have been popping up all along the border.

Governments are discussing the potential to make vaccinations mandatory for drivers – Health Minister Yvette D’Ath and Transport Minister Mark Bailey are considering other precautions – but Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said most were doing the right thing and many had already had their first dose.

“We need them to cross our borders, they’ve got to move freight around our country,” Young said.

The border zone is under increased surveillance and the border bubble getting smaller. On Thursday, after Lismore was placed into lockdown, Queensland removed the local council area from the cross-border travel regime, while a case in Glen Innes, which today also returned to lockdown, is expected to see that area follow suit.

Queensland has 33 active cases of COVID-19, with another case confirmed in a student from St Thomas More College at Sunnybank, taking the number in that cluster to 10.

Ordering around 1,000 school families into 14 days of home quarantine – has prevented those cases being infectious in the community.

Young again praised the school community and said “unfortunately for that family, their 14 days starts all over again”. She encouraged people to rally behind them.

All other Queenslanders aged 12 and over have been encouraged to get vaccinated, if they have not done so already, with a pop-up clinic in Mackay at National Rugby League games this weekend and 38 centres across the state open for walk-ins and bookings.

“We are starting to get that big ramp up in vaccine supply that we’ve been promised for many months now,” Young said.

D’Ath said GPs and pharmacies had been most affected by recent supply issues, even having to be supplemented by Queensland Health. She said it would take until November for the Commonwealth to make up for the Pfizer stocks diverted to NSW.

With Queensland still lagging other states in vaccination coverage, D’Ath also suggested people in NSW and Victoria had turned out in greater numbers because they wanted to be free of lockdowns and restrictions and return to their normal lifestyle.

“What we want to do, is come out in huge numbers to ensure that we can maintain the lifestyle we’ve got,” the Minister said.

The increase in Pfizer stocks comes ahead of Moderna arriving, and AstraZeneca still in strong supply. D’Ath denied Queensland had caused any vaccine hesitancy around AstraZeneca. It is not clear when the government expects Queensland to reach 80 per cent of eligible people.

Young again warned that even though Queensland had largely managed to keep the Delta variant at bay, “eventually, it will start spreading, we can’t hold in back forever”.

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