Queensland authorities have eased COVID-19 border restrictions for 150,000 northern NSW residents in five council areas, with the Sunshine State again recording no new cases of coronavirus.
But a combination of school holidays, an upcoming long weekend and IT challenges around the issuing of permits mean local police are anticipating a “bumpy road” at border checkpoints in coming days.
Residents in the Lismore, Ballina, Byron Bay, Richmond Valley and Glen Innes local government areas are now able to apply for a border zone resident declaration pass and travel into Queensland.
The border will remain shut to the rest of NSW until the state has gone for 28 days without a single incident of unlinked community transmission.
People in the expanded border bubble will be able to travel anywhere in Queensland for any purpose from Thursday, as long as they have not travelled to a declared COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days.
However, police say IT issues have stopped some residents from within the extended bubble being able to apply for a border pass.
“Some suburbs haven’t been recognised within the system,” Gold Coast District Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said.
Affected people are advised to take their identification to the border checkpoint so officers can assess them on site.
Mr Wheeler warned travellers hoping to cross the border that a “perfect storm” awaited them over the next few days, with school holidays in both states and a long weekend ahead.
“I expect this to be a bumpy road for the next few days,” he said.
The border relaxation comes as Australian Defence Force personnel withdraw from Queensland’s borders and airports. They remain at quarantine hotels.
With active cases at just four, authorities have also relaxed social-distancing restrictions on outdoor venues.
Queenslanders will have to stay two metres apart at outdoor restaurants, beer gardens, theme parks and zoos.
The maximum number allowed at events with COVID-safe checklists has increased from 500 to 1000.
Stadiums, amphitheatres and performance venues with COVID-safe plans are allowed to increase capacity from 50 per cent to 75 per cent.
The changes for stadiums come as Queensland gears up to host the AFL grand final at Brisbane’s Gabba on October 24.