Southwest police gear up for border crossing checks
CUNNAMULLA police have a mammoth task ahead of them as Queensland counts down to midnight, when all state borders will be closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The small outback unit is set to run a checkpoint 120km south of town on the Mitchell Highway, stopping every person trying to cross in to Queensland.
It is unknown how long the border will remain closed, and how long the checkpoints will remain in place; Senior Sergeant Isa Tolete told the Western Times it is unprecedented for his rural crew, and for police in general.
"We have never seen anything like this before; it is new ground, and something that is unprecedented in policing," he said.
"But we are adapting to the situation, and will still be on our usual patrols as well as the (border) checkpoint.
"This is a big job for us, but I envisage that after a week or so, it will slow down - people will realise they can't travel."
Border checkpoints have been billed by the Queensland Government as an interim measure, only to be used until a new system is operational.
State Disaster Coordinator Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said an application system is in the works, so people can apply for permits to cross the border.
"Interim arrangements will be in place to enforce border restrictions from 12.01am tomorrow," Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.
"The community can help us by not trying to cross the border unless their travel is absolutely essential.
"We understand that people will be inconvenienced but these restrictions are being implemented to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
"We are in the process of developing an online application and exemption system including a help line, but it will not be ready for tonight.
"We will have work abounds in place tonight but that could contribute to delays."
In the meantime, police will be enforcing quarantine measures, and fines for noncompliance will be as much as $13,345 for individuals, or up to $66,672.50 for corporations.
Some exemptions to the border closure will apply to those considered as providing critical services to Queensland.
• National/state security personnel.
• Essential health services.
• Emergency services.
• Transport of goods or freight including food
• Critical maintenance/repair to critical infrastructure in Queensland
• Mining/energy/agribusiness who have a plan to manage COVID-19 transmission among employees.
Exemptions will also be offered to certain people on compassionate grounds, to students, and to fly-in-fly-out workers.
Travelling to Queensland for family court or for parole/bail conditions will still be permitted.