NSW may refuse to accept interstate residents returning from overseas for hotel quarantine, as anger grows in the government at other states for hastily slamming their borders shut over the northern beaches outbreak.
Every state and territory has now implemented varying levels of restrictions on NSW residents, throwing travel plans into chaos for millions of Australians days before Christmas and prompting outrage from Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro on Tuesday flagged the possibility of forcing other states to take their own residents for hotel quarantine, amid frustration in the government that NSW bears the brunt of the risk.
“We’ll have plenty of notice, we’ll know who’s coming in and we could organise a commercial or charter flight,” Mr Barilaro told The Australian.
“They don’t want to pay but they want to lecture us … they’re not the ones carrying the heavy burden.”
The Premier on Tuesday slammed her counterparts for causing “suffering” to NSW residents, and raised the hotel quarantine issue.
“We know the infection rates are going up overseas,” she told reporters.
“We don’t stand here and tell you how many were Queenslanders or Victorians. I do feel NSW has done more than its fair share and I ask other states to do the same and I look forward to other states stepping up.”
Ms Berejiklian said when NSW made decisions on imposing restrictions, it considered not just the health impacts “but societal impacts, what it means for the greater population – you have to assess the medical risk against the risk of other things which will harm the community”.
“That’s why we waited until Victoria had consistently 140, 120, 180 cases a day before we closed our border,” she said.
“That was a big step we took. We make sure the decisions we take consider the eight million people in the state, and not just particular groupings in one place or another.”
Ms Berejiklian noted that residents of the Avalon area and the northern beaches were bearing the load of having to contain the virus, but that decisions made by the State Government have to “look at the bigger picture”.
“That’s why my frustration at various stages of the pandemic with my other colleagues in other states is please consider the compassionate grounds,” she said.
“There are parts of NSW completely unaffected by this current outbreak and yet everybody in NSW is suffering because other state leaders have made decisions.”
Wednesday’s daily update, coming after consecutive days of falling case numbers, will determine whether Sydneysiders will see an easing of restrictions just before Christmas.
Ms Berejiklian’s comments came as a Melbourne teenager tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from Sydney’s northern beaches.
The 15-year-old Moonee Valley girl drove back with her mother and stopped at a country town on the way.
Victorian Department of Health and Human Services deputy secretary Jeroen Weimar said on Tuesday that more than 4000 people who had returned from the Greater Sydney “amber zone” over the weekend had all tested negative.
Premier Daniel Andrews expressed frustration earlier this week at the Australian Defence Force’s refusal to help patrol the NSW border checkpoints, leading to fears of massive delays.
“I’m not pleased that we’ve asked for 200 to 300 people, we may get a much smaller number than that,” Mr Andrews said on Monday. “What that simply means is that more members of Victoria Police and more SES volunteers will have to be on that border right throughout Christmas.”
Meanwhile in Queensland, police yesterday said they had turned back more than 100 NSW residents attempting to cross the border illegally.
Announcing the reinstatement of the hard border, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the measures were “necessary”.
“When the New South Wales Premier says she is on high alert, we are on high alert,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Sunday.
“Anyone who has come from Greater Sydney over the past week, please go and get a COVID test. If you are from Greater Sydney, now is not the time to come to Queensland. We love you – we want you to have a peaceful Christmas at home – and hopefully in the months to come we‘ll be able to welcome you back to our wonderful Sunshine State, but now is not the time.”
On the Gold Coast, testing clinics are reportedly so overstretched that people are fainting in the heat, with some waiting six hours or more.