QLD to open international borders on Saturday

QLD to open international borders on Saturday

Photo: Brisbane Airport, via Facebook.

After finally lifting border restrictions on interstate travellers last Saturday, in three days' time the Queensland Government will start welcoming international arrivals without quarantine requirements for the fully vaccinated.

The announcement comes after the state's double-dose vaccination rate hit 88.82 per cent as of 17 January.

"We have decided to set a firm date for vaccinated people - international travellers - coming into Queensland, and we have set that date as 1am this Saturday," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told a press conference this morning.

She said the announcement would give certainty to airlines and incoming travellers.

"We're asking you to do a RAT test within 24 hours. This is consistent with other states," she said.

"If National Cabinet decides to change that down the track, so be it, but we do believe that now is the right time with our vaccination rates so high."

Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) welcomed the news, with its CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff describing this as an "incredibly exciting day" for everyone at Brisbane Airport, the airlines and everyone associated with international aviation and visitation.  

"It takes us one step closer to re-uniting with the world," de Graaf said.

"Our team at Brisbane Airport is more than ready for Saturday morning. They have kept the lights on throughout the pandemic and have done a phenomenal job in adapting to the ever-changing requirements over the past two years.

"Rebuilding international travel into and out of Brisbane Airport will take many months, as we will need destinations for Australians and inbound market nations to reopen. We are not expecting to return to 2019 route and passenger levels until 2024."

He said the airport team hoped to see some uptick in some passenger sectors coming into Queensland, especially with the return of international students for the commencement of the university term. 

"The state’s agricultural harvest is also under way and needing workers," he added.

"Most importantly, there will be many families who will be greatly relieved that they can now reunite in Queensland as and when they need. We think the visiting friends and family sector will be the first to jump at this chance and hop on a plane to Queensland."

BAC added some airlines have maintained their BNE services throughout the pandemic and continued to carry repatriating Aussies, highlighting that Singapore Airlines and Emirates have been steadfast in maintaining a lifeline home to the world, while Air New Zealand, Air Niugini and the Taiwanese airlines have also continued to operate at BNE uplifting passengers and Queensland exports.

In addition, the corporation noted Qatar Airways started Brisbane flights during the pandemic which have proven to be a reliable pathway for passengers and Queensland produce exports to markets across the globe.

The majority of other airlines are wanting to return to BNE but will need to see market conditions that make sense for their business to make a restart decision.

"Although Queensland remains a world-famous destination and Brisbane remains a strong market for airlines to serve, airline businesses have suffered greatly from the pandemic, which means the competition amongst destinations for very scarce airline resources will be intense," de Graaff said.

"We look forward to working cooperatively with airlines, the Government and the entire travel industry, to recreate and support demand for Queensland and see visitor numbers rebuild."

These expectations would likely not have been possible if it weren't for the state's vaccination, but the Premier continued to warn against vaccine hesitancy - particularly on the Gold Coast.

The tourism hotspot is lagging behind other parts of the state such as Brisbane which is 93-95 per cent double-dose vaccinated depending on the area, and places like Central Queensland (91.1 per cent), Wide Bay (95 per cent plus) and Townsville (91.7 per cent).

"I know I keep talking about the Gold Coast but I am concerned. The Gold Coast is still sitting at 90.5 per cent," the Premier said.

"If you look at the scheme of things in terms of where people are going to be traveling, can I please give an added push for the Gold Coast region? Please come and get vaccinated. If you are due your booster, come and get your booster."

There were 19,932 new cases reported overnight for the state and tragically 11 deaths from the virus, including a person in their 30s who was not vaccinated.

Updated at 11:19am AEST on 19 January 2021.

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