Premier urges road trips, airlines plan flights as travel bans lift
Jun 02, 2020
By Stuart Layt and Lydia Lynch
Queenslanders are being encouraged to take a road trip in the next few weeks, with travel restrictions within the state now fully lifted.
There were again no new coronavirus cases in Queensland on Monday, as the state saw the complete lifting of all travel restrictions for the first time since the pandemic began.
With just five active cases and multiple days without any new cases, authorities are now confident that travel within the state can be relaxed fully, while people are still required to maintain social distancing.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk took advantage of the lifting of restrictions to travel nearly the length of the state to Cairns on Monday to showcase what was now possible again.
Ms Palaszczuk said with travel no unrestricted within the state, the possibility of more commercial flights was now on the table.
"We’re definitely going to be speaking to the airlines about that, I think this gives them the confidence they need to put on more flights to make sure Queenslanders can travel not just for tourism but for business as well," the Premier said.
Qantas is understood to be watching for increased demand to put on more flights between Queensland cities, while Virgin Australia is currently under administration, with the Queensland government joining one of the consortiums bidding to take it over.
Ms Palaszczuk said it would take some time for all the issues of travel around the second-largest state area-wise in Australia to be ironed out.
"[Flight prices] are a matter for the airlines, they now have to look at what is the safest way to get people on board," she said.
"But I say to people, there’s nothing wrong with hopping in the car and going on a road trip."
The government had the length of the state covered on Monday, with Tourism Minister Kate Jones travelling to the Gold Coast while the Premier was in Cairns.
The government’s decision not to open the state borders to outside visitors has been criticised by businesses, especially on the Queensland-NSW border, however Ms Jones slammed the talk as "gutter politics".
"Quite frankly I’m pretty angry that the LNP are choosing to play such gutter politics on this, we know that everyone’s hurting," Ms Jones said.
"[The Premier] is listening to the Chief Health Officer’s advice and we are implementing that, and because people have listened to that advice, we are standing here on June 1, not June 14, bringing forward relaxations."
Destination Gold Coast chair Paul Donovan said he supported the government’s stance on borders, and said Queenslanders could help make up the shortfall over the coming weeks.
"Just up the road we have more than 2 million people in Brisbane who we know are looking for a break - they'll be our first target market," he said.
"Many have already started taking bookings from visitors throughout Queensland who are keen to come and visit the Coast."
'Terrifying' numbers at start of outbreak
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has told a parliamentary inquiry that she was very worried by the sudden rise in cases in the state at the start of the outbreak.
When asked at the committee hearing into the pandemic response why her advice on borders differed from federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, Dr Young said she had better data than he did.
"I actually have more granular information available to me in Queensland than he has at a Commonwealth level," Dr Young said.
"I have very, very specific information and I have been using that every step along the way to advise the Queensland government of what I think they should consider and make their decisions based upon."
Dr Young said she knew they had to take serious action when she saw the "terrifying" figures.
"At that stage in the world they were looking at doubling every six days so we were doing worse, so we had a lot of problems," she said.
"It was out of control, so I looked very carefully at the data and it showed that the 15 days between the ninth of March through to the 26th of March, we had 14 case of COVID-19 diagnosed and confirmed in Queenslanders with a history of interstate travel."
Since April 10, Queensland has recorded no cases linked to interstate travel.
"So it was a very, very successful strategy at protecting Queenslanders," Dr Young said.