Is it time to shut the gate into Queensland?

Should Queensland close its border to all, except residents?

It’s not a popular question to ask, and the noisy response will be “no”. But mainly, that will come from those who live outside its borders, or those tourism or Gold Coast businesses relying on interstate patronage.

But now, with an election on the horizon, other considerations need to be brought to the public stage, for discussion.

School holidays are over, and many businesses would do better in a Queensland where people traveled – and spent – freely. 

Since the borders reopened some cafe owners report concerns by patrons. They are less inclined to come and dine, because of the fear of a second wave. This is an economic consideration that is not being aired. And it needs to be talked about.

So too does the fact that the Coronavirus, so far, is a big city problem and in a big State like Queensland, it is irrelevant in many communities, who will also head to the polls to deliver their verdict on Annastacia Palaszczuk in October.

In the past week, I haven’t spoken to a single person who wants the Queensland borders to remain open. They include educators, medicos, and small business owners.

Some blame the 200-odd people who have slipped into the State and have not been able to be found. 

Some blame the stupidity of some of our own residents, like the Queensland doctor who believed he was exempt from quarantine.

And others blame rules that are a bit fudgy at best, and which are being broken regularly.

In part that’s due to a sense of security. We are almost Coronavirus free in Queensland. That’s because we closed the borders, and stayed at home.

But now the borders are open, and we’re out and about and taking fewer precautions. You can see it at shopping centres, and in school grounds, and even in company offices.

The problem with this pandemic, as Victoria has shown, is that it can start tiny, creep for a couple of days, and then become a monster difficult to shackle.

And that’s how we’ve got to see it. Not as a set of numbers. Nor as a tally of deaths. Not as a signal of jobless levels. Not even as the biggest economic challenge in 100 years.

This is an illness that now has Australian children struggling to breathe. It’s an illness that has Australians lying in bed fighting death. It has Victorians hooked up to life support. And yesterday it killed five people.

We need to stop talking numbers and start talking about people.

So should we close Queensland’s borders?

It’s a question on which the State’s silent majority should also be heard.

Photograph of Madonna King

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator. An award-winning presenter of 612 ABC Brisbane, she has authored 12 books and now works across radio, television and online.

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