Canberra – Australia’s third-most-populous state of Queensland opened its internal border after a 15-week lockdown on Friday, with travellers stuck for hours in long traffic jams at checkpoints.
Queensland police have told travellers to pack food and water and to expect major delays over the next 72 hours, as 20-kilometre-long traffic jams formed at several checkpoints.
“Patience will definitely be a virtue today,” Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told ABC radio on Friday.
Queensland in Australia’s north-east is a gateway to several major tourist destinations, including the iconic Great Barrier Reef, which is visited by more than 2 million visitors each year.
School holidays in neighbouring New South Wales are starting, which is expected to form a large part of the influx of visitors.
Also, thousands of grey nomads – retired travellers from the north who holiday in caravans or motorhomes to escape the southern winter – are waiting at the border to enter Queensland.
Grey nomads comprise up to 70 percent of bookings at caravan parks, according to Tourism Australia.
However, people from coronavirus-hit Victoria are banned to enter.
“I hate to say that, but it’s as long as it takes until the community transmission there is under control,” Palaszczuk told Channel Nine.
Victoria recorded 288 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the biggest daily increase in Australia since the pandemic began, Premier Daniel Andrews said.
Most of the cases are from Melbourne, where there has been a massive spike in Covid-19 cases for the past three weeks, forcing the city back into a strict lockdown.