Australian state leaders at odds over reopening domestic borders

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Canberra: Australian state leaders were at odds over reopening domestic borders, with some of them resisting pressure to allow visitors from elsewhere in the country.

On Monday, Australia recorded nine new cases of COVID-19, taking the total number of positive tests to at least 7,060, while virus related deaths increased by one to 99, reports Xinhua news agency.

Despite the reduction in active cases, the States of Queensland and Western Australia (WA) maintained strict closed border policies, while Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory applied more relaxed travel restrictions.

The more populous states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria — which have recorded dramatically higher numbers of COVID-19 — remained open and over the weekend took part in a nationwide easing of social distancing regulations.

On Monday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian renewed calls for her counterparts to allow interstate travel, noting that a closed-border policy no longer makes sense given the low number of new transmissions.

“I think closing borders doesn’t help Australia, it doesn’t help any of the states and it doesn’t help our population. It doesn’t help economic activity,” she said.

“This notion that you’re going to eradicate the virus from Australia completely is a little beyond reality.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday said that while the policy would be periodically reviewed, the State’s borders could remain closed until September.

“We’ll be reviewing those border restrictions at the end of each month and fingers crossed towards the end of the year we will be seeing southerners return to our glorious sunshine state,” Palaszczuk said.

In 2019, around 24 million domestic tourists pumped more than $11.5 billio into Queensland, which boasts world-class natural attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsundays.

WA Premier Mark McGowan sided with Palaszczuk in saying that the time was not right to ease border restrictions and that the decision would be made on the advice of health experts.

“We had very low rates of infection here. They had higher rates in the eastern states, so we will keep the border up until we think it is the right time for the health of Western Australians.”

(Agencies)