A rule few people knew about has been blamed for an embarrassing blunder that saw New Zealanders whisked away to quarantine, after arriving in Queensland on Saturday to “open borders”.
Only New Zealanders who have been in their home country for the past 14 days, and arrive on a “quarantine-free” flight, are allowed to freely travel around Queensland without quarantine.
As Queensland is only open to New Zealand, this means only passengers on flights direct from the country are able to enter, providing only people who have spent the last 14 days in NZ are on board.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said travellers arriving from New Zealand as of 1am on Saturday would no longer need to quarantine during an appearance on breakfast TV on Friday.
“We are hoping that eventually New Zealand will not have to do that hotel quarantine upon return, and then there would be free-flowing movement between the two,” she told the Nine Network.
But Qld’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young corrected Ms Palaszczuk’s blunder and said only those who travelled to the Sunshine State from New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight would not be required to quarantine on arrival.
‘There is a national protocol that Queensland has adopted, which splits people on flights who have only been in safe travel zone countries, versus those who have also been in other countries,’ she said.
Dr Young further explained anyone not on a quarantine-free flight would still need to complete 14 days mandatory quarantine.
“We have a New Zealand flight arriving in Brisbane (Saturday) that isn’t a quarantine-free flight, which means those people will need to complete quarantine.”
The first quarantine-free flight to Queensland will not land until Wednesday.
Ms Palaszczuk’s mix-up caused confusion at Brisbane Airport and medi-hotels yesterday.
Dr Young said some travellers may not have needed to quarantine, given the update to the travel restrictions.
Western Australia is the only jurisdiction with border arrangements in place within Australia.
The state requires only those from South Australia to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival but the restrictions will ease on Christmas Day, according to WA Premier Mark McGowan.