QLD Health explains Clarence Valley border snub

IT HAS taken three days for Queensland Health to explain why the Clarence Valley was excluded from their latest border zone inclusions - and it will be little comfort for local residents eager to get across the border.

The response follows initial inclusion of neighbouring shires such as Byron, Lismore, Ballina and even Glen Innes, which stretches to the south of the Clarence Valley.

In a move that will further inflame the Clarence community, the Queensland government yesterday quietly added the western shires of Inverell, Gwydir, Moree Plans, Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke and the Far West to the areas allowed into Queensland.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said they understood there would be some communities close to, but not immediately neighbouring, the border, that won't fall into these border communities and may be inconvenienced by these restrictions.

"These are difficult decisions made with the consideration of several factors including the number of cases, source of infection, and the general movement of people," she said.

"The areas in the extended border zone are areas where there is a strong connection to Queensland through work, recreation or regular access to services such as health and education.

"We know this is likely to be a staged process and are optimistic this announcement is just a first step on the road to recovery and progress for both states."

>>> RELATED: Clarence Valley excluded from new border zone

The words will be cold comfort for people who have been separated from their children in the border battle, such as the Grafton mother who was separated from her newborn baby, or the Yamba family whose daughter spent nearly a week alone while her parents battled to see her in border mix-ups.

Caitlan Taylor with her new baby Huxlee Kahle, who she didn't she for four days due to Queensland border restrictions.
Caitlan Taylor with her new baby Huxlee Kahle, who she didn't she for four days due to Queensland border restrictions.

The Daily Examiner has again asked for comment as to why the Byron and Ballina shires, both of which have the highest infection rates in the Northern NSW Local Health District, and have had more recent cases were included, where the Clarence was not.

The Northern NSW Local Health District, which stretches from Grafton to the Queensland border currently has no active cases of coronavirus, and the Clarence Valley has not had a positive test since March 28.

>>> ORIGINAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Queensland changes border arrangements

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the change would support people and businesses in the border communities. "Our strong borders have kept Queenslanders safe and allowed us to keep our economy going, businesses open and people working," she said. "Thanks to our health response and falling numbers of the virus, we can now take a gradual approach to easing these restrictions. "So many residents of Northern New South Wales get their services from Queensland and this will allow them to return to supporting Queensland businesses."

Police checking people crossing the Queensland / New South Wales border.
Police checking people crossing the Queensland / New South Wales border. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the border zone expansion was part of Queensland Health's end-of-month assessment of COVID-19 protection measures. "This expansion means border residents in these new areas can cross the border for any purpose," Dr Young said.

"New South Wales has done well and Queensland has done brilliantly," Dr Young said.

>>> BLOCKED: Border rules keep mum from new baby

"The fact there have been no cases in these expanded areas for some time is only one factor I've taken into consideration. "It has also been important to understand whether COVID-19 carriers were moving across New South Wales and seeding uninfected areas of the state with the virus.

Dr Young said that they also needed to know that during September Queensland had its recent cluster under control.

"Those factors have convinced me that the risk of increasing the border zone to these new areas is minimal," she said.

"Of course, if we suddenly see cases in Northern New South Wales before next Wednesday, we will not put these measures in place but I am not expecting that."

The new border zone restrictions come into effect from October 1.