Disease Centre Push and Border Decision Looms for Australian States

October 29, 2020 Updated: October 29, 2020

The federal government has rejected calls for a Centre for Disease Control similar to that in the US and Europe, pointing to escalating COVID-19 rates in both those regions.

The Australian Medical Association says the nation would be well served with a body tasked with preserving health and preparing for future threats.

But Health Minister Greg Hunt dismissed the idea, also pushed by the Labor opposition, saying within two weeks the world would hit the milestone of 50 million coronavirus cases and 1.25 million lives lost.

“The disease is progressing and at a faster rate than ever before,” he said.

“Against that background, Australia has had seven cases within the community within the last 24 hours.”

The debate over a disease control centre comes as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk prepares to announce whether she’ll reopen the border to NSW.

The border has been closed since August 8, with access only permitted to frontier residents, essential workers, freight drivers and people granted medical or compassionate exemptions.

Palaszczuk says she’ll take advice on Friday from chief health officer Jeannette Young and inform the public before noon.

The closure has sparked a long-running dispute with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

But the border reopening could be in jeopardy after NSW recorded another mystery COVID-19 case in southwest Sydney.

Palaszczuk has repeatedly said she won’t put Queensland lives at risk by reopening too early.

“I have to do what I have to do to keep Queenslanders safe,” she said on Thursday while campaigning for re-election on the Gold Coast.

Meanwhile, Berejiklian is sticking to a minimum two-week time frame before opening the border with Victoria, and won’t guarantee it will happen before Christmas.

The NSW premier says she will wait and see how Victoria deals with the inevitable outbreaks as restrictions ease and people mingle again.

“The real test is how do you deal with that. Are you able to control them? Are you able to find the sources of those infections?

“Once we see evidence of that for two or three weeks after the restrictions are eased well then we’ll rely on the health advice,” she said on Thursday.

In WA, the state disaster council will meet on Friday to discuss new health advice on the hard border closures.

It comes days after a new poll showed most West Australians wanted Premier Mark McGowan to set a date for reopening state borders.

Education Minister Sue Ellery, the government’s leader in the upper house, on Thursday said she was yet to see the latest advice but expected it would reflect the continued decline in virus case numbers in NSW and Victoria.

“The hard border policy has served us well,” she said.

“We will consider that advice tomorrow. I’m not going to speculate on what is in it or what we decide.”