How more COVID-free could the ACT be before Queensland removes our hotspot status?

Dominic Giannini 24 August 2020 46
COVID-19 nurse

The ACT remains a declared hotspot in Queensland despite having no active COVID-19 cases. Photo: Canberra Health Services.

Confusion continues to reign over Canberra’s status as a COVID-19 ‘hotspot’ as the ACT Government seeks clarity around how a jurisdiction that’s been entirely virus-free for almost seven weeks meets the definition.

But despite pleas from Chief Minister Andrew Barr and a directive from the Prime Minister, there is still no consensus about why and how the definition has been applied to the ACT.

A principal medical advisory council has been tasked with standardising the hotspot definition, which currently means that Canberrans are not allowed to enter Queensland where there are, paradoxically, significantly more active COVID-19 cases.

Queensland is currently grappling with a virus outbreak stemming from a Brisbane detention centre. While the rate of increase has been in single digits for several days, there are 18 active cases in the state and public health alerts have been issued for more than 55 sites across Queensland’s south-east.

However, the state’s border remains shut to Canberrans because of the ACT’s porous borders with NSW and community transmission in Sydney, three hours’ drive away. NSW Health authorities confirmed three new COVID infections in the 24 hours to 8:00 pm yesterday.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 compliance checks ramp up on Canberra border arrivals and businesses

The Queensland Government defines hotspots as “places in Australia where health officials have found a lot of people with COVID-19. Hotspots are legally listed so that people travelling from those high-risk areas into Queensland can be identified”.

The ACT was listed by Queensland as a COVID-19 hotspot on 8 August. The last active COVID-19 patient in the ACT had recovered a week earlier on 1 August while the last cases were diagnosed on 9 July.

On Friday, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) – the key decision-making committee for health emergencies – was told by National Cabinet to “develop a common understanding to define a hotspot and consider movement restrictions relating to a hotspot”.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he lobbied Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk during the National Cabinet meeting on Friday, but it remains unclear whether the ACT would remain a designated hotspot under the new “common understanding”.

Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has lobbied his Queensland counterpart to open the state’s borders to Canberrans. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

“I raised the issue of the ACT being incorrectly referred to as a ‘hotspot’ at National Cabinet. I pointed out to the group that the ACT had gone the longest time without a case and had never had community transmission,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr told Region Media.

“It is, however, up to each state and territory leader who they shut or open their borders to.”

But despite those pleas, there’s been no confirmation from the Queensland Government about whether they would be prepared to reopen the border to the ACT, even if the AHPPC declared that Canberra is not a hotspot.

A Queensland Government official told Region Media that there would be “bigger problems” if the AHPPC decided to overrule health advice provided by the state’s CHO.

READ ALSO: ACT Government sets date for completion of Centenary Hospital adolescent mental health ward

“We can’t pre-empt what will be decided in AHPPC, but will keep the community updated with any changes to declared hotspots,” a Queensland Health spokesperson said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also called for more clarity on the issue.

“These decisions cannot be made on an arbitrary basis,” Mr Morrison said.

“I am not suggesting they are, I am just saying it was agreed that we are going to ask once again for us to get a clear definition of what constitutes a hotspot.

“When you have restrictions that are being placed on people’s movement in the country based on what is and what is not a hotspot, there needs to be a clear medical and scientific definition of what that is.”

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46 Responses to How more COVID-free could the ACT be before Queensland removes our hotspot status?
mark boast mark boast 10:41 am 28 Aug 20

Queenslands simplistic approach to virus spread control using state borders and designating “hotspots” without consultation is politicisation of an epidemic. I find this unintelligent, un Australian, and bordering inhuman. It should be called out for what it is…. and I want to see my Granddaughter again

Jenny Stone Jenny Stone 10:00 am 28 Aug 20

Because people from other hotspots fly in to Qld via Canberra *official*

Guy Speake Guy Speake 9:24 pm 26 Aug 20

Maybe it's because they're owned by the Chinese and somebody said something the CCP didn't like?

Bekah Glaz Bekah Glaz 7:43 pm 25 Aug 20

Because ACT is wholly inside NSW, and no border restrictions? I mean really?

Ian Ian 9:51 am 25 Aug 20

It’s probably something really simple, like it’s easier to tell people on the border, or code whatever IT they’re using, not to allow anyone with an address with a postcode in the 2xxx range in.

Ti Jay Ti Jay 8:22 am 25 Aug 20

It’s not about the ACT.

It’s about the local government and Airport staff not respecting or putting restrictions in place to stop cross border travel and allowing people from NSW to fly to QLD from Canberra.

So the QLD premier said. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    Antony Burnham Antony Burnham 1:30 pm 25 Aug 20

    Canberra Times reported that the airport had offer to check passengers for proof of residence in the ACT in exchange for us not being designated as a hotspot, but QLD govt not interested.

Acton Acton 7:24 am 25 Aug 20

If Barr had the guts he would toughen up and stop acting like a wimpy kid. As Qld has more cases and presents more risk to the ACT Barr should threaten to ban all Queenslanders, particularly their miserable politicians, from entering the ACT. And if NSW stops Canberrans from crossing it’s border to return home then we can stop them crossing our border and using facilities here, like hospitals, doctors and Parliament House.

Shane Westmore Shane Westmore 11:55 pm 24 Aug 20

Punishing 95% of NSW/ACT for the actions of a few is pure arrogance by a premier who is already intent on destroying the GBR for money... there’s no political consequence for non-Qld’ers... except the $millions in tourist revenue she is blocking... border checks are not difficult, yet the AFP & state police have proved their incompetence in that aspect.... why blame QLD Police when there’s another state & territory to deflect blame

    Shane Westmore Shane Westmore 8:59 am 25 Aug 20

    GBR = Great Barrier Reef which AnnaP is intending to destroy for money, it shows a track record of putting other interests above QLDers (as well as the rest of Australia) as is being done with border closures... the premier closed the border, but the state police & AFP are conducting border checks & not sharing data with each other & are trusting people on their word as long as they're residents.... it's a flawed system & if people are still slipping through the borders, there's no reason to close the borders at all

James Hodges James Hodges 10:43 pm 24 Aug 20

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Bid your time Canberra. The next time that there is a national conference to be held in Canberra, the ACT government should insist that the QLD delegation arrive in the city two weeks early in order to meet the SDCT virus requirements (seriously dumb cane toad).

Rastislav Zrelak Rastislav Zrelak 10:16 pm 24 Aug 20

The question is? How do they know which state or town will be next hot spot? It is Political game and they have to show that 23 000 000 spent on extra EM building in Garan was not wasting of our money 🤔🤔🤔

Peter Major Peter Major 10:01 pm 24 Aug 20

So Polychook can win an election

Tina Newsome Tina Newsome 9:46 pm 24 Aug 20

Quite simply it’s politics, nothing to do with protecting people from the virus. It’s getting bloody ridiculous now.

Melissa Flanigan Melissa Flanigan 9:37 pm 24 Aug 20

Possibly because some selfish Sydney siders got in their car drove to canberra and got on a plane to Queensland .... and by passed the border crossing before the govt switched on to what they were doing - which was morally wrong.

    Bekah Glaz Bekah Glaz 7:45 pm 25 Aug 20

    And what about NSW residents that are just outside the border of the ACT?

Steph Jackman Steph Jackman 8:20 pm 24 Aug 20

What I find rich.. is that the QLD parliamentarians who recently travelled to Canberra for sitting week weren’t required to self isolate for 2 weeks..however when they return to QLD they will be required to. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    Steph Jackman Steph Jackman 10:08 pm 24 Aug 20

    Sarah Clark They held a sitting week this week. Members had the option to attend via video link, however many did travel to Canberra. Terri Butler was here, and attended APH before leaving to get tested due to close contact tracing.

    (She’s tested negative thankfully) but they’re here.

    Sarah Clark Sarah Clark 10:10 pm 24 Aug 20

    I am with you then they shouldn’t be here.

    My members I know didn’t and are both from HoR and Sen

    Steph Jackman Steph Jackman 10:11 pm 24 Aug 20

    Definitely an unnecessary risk to put on a town with zero cases.

Lynne Meredith Lynne Meredith 8:00 pm 24 Aug 20

I don’t want to go to QLD, they still have COVID.... why risk bringing it back here?

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 7:59 pm 24 Aug 20

How about the federal govt forces the airlines to take some responsiblity and not allow anyone on a a plane without definite proof of address. Supposedly you are supposed to show ID but I have never had to all the years I have been flying back and forth to Perth.

Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell 7:50 pm 24 Aug 20

Why does Canberra include the whole of Victoria a hotspot when most of rural Victoria has had no covid these Health Departments need to talk to each other instead of crippling the states.

Julia Nesbitt Julia Nesbitt 7:47 pm 24 Aug 20

Yep an island in the middle of NSW.

Melanie Akhurst Melanie Akhurst 7:43 pm 24 Aug 20

We have Defence HQ , we have parliamentarians, we have Embassies

Chris Ellis Chris Ellis 7:39 pm 24 Aug 20

Until NSW people stop using us as a jumping off point

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