Don’t Stay ‘Stuck in Neutral’: Australian PM

Don’t Stay ‘Stuck in Neutral’: Australian PM
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on July 30, 2020. (Sean Davey/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged states not to remain “stuck in neutral” as COVID-19 case numbers are driven down but borders remain up.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Oct 30 - a day before she goes to the polls - travel restrictions will ease from 1am on Tuesday, with its border open to everyone but those in Greater Sydney and Victoria.

Western Australia is also expected to make some changes to its border restrictions later on Friday, but continues to isolate NSW and Victoria.

Morrison says it’s important for the sake of all Australians that state decisions are made on the latest health advice and are made transparently.

“We can’t stay stuck in neutral,” he told 2GB radio.

“We’ve got to gear up again, we’ve got to get going again, and do it safely.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was disappointed Queensland is still banning Sydneysiders, while opening to regional NSW for the first time in almost four months.

“It’s extremely unfair and lacks logic and common sense to continue to lump NSW with Victoria - our states have taken very different paths,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

No new cases of locally-transmitted COVID-19 were diagnosed in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, but one new case was recorded after the deadline and will be included in numbers announced on Saturday.

Victoria reported four new cases but no deaths on Friday.

Queensland-based federal minister David Littleproud accused the state government of “cherry-picking” the science around the pandemic.

But Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young said mystery outbreaks in the Greater Sydney area were behind her decision to advise 4.8 million city residents should continue to be blocked from entering the state.

“Yesterday they had four new cases and one of those cases they could not link to any other known clusters,” she said.

“(That) means that they have transmission and they don’t know where it is coming from.”

Young said there was “a strong possibility” Queensland would open to Sydney once community outbreaks were under control.

Business Council chief Jennifer Westacott says there is no reason states cannot open up if they have the right tracing and tracing systems in place, as well as local containment and quarantine.

“Getting all of Australia’s domestic borders open again by Christmas would be a $3 billion gift to the nation,” she said.

As thousands of Australians register to return home from overseas, work is under way to make more hotel quarantine rooms available.

Former health department boss Jane Halton, who undertook a review of the quarantine system for Morrison, said on Friday she was confident senior health officials would soon approve flexibility from the current 14-day rule.

She’s recommended returned Australians be freed from quarantine within seven days with tracking and testing systems in place to minimise virus spread.

Daniel McCulloch and Paul Osborne in Canberra