$500 million: The cost of keeping the border closed


A bleeding Gold Coast economy faces border closures staying until after September which the city's furious tourism boss labels "strange" and a top medical adviser does not understand.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young shocked the city yesterday by saying she could not even commit to allowing the state border to reopen in September.

It prompted Destination Gold Coast CEO Annaliese Battista to warn the cost to the city of a border block to tourists from July to September would be $500 million.

But Ms Young urged patience, suggesting while interstate travel could resume in July if all goes "perfectly" with the nation containing the spread of coronavirus, September was more "realistic".


Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

"September is far more realistic date for this to occur, having said that I can't even commit that September would be possible," she said. "If the tourism industry wants a realistic scenario they should be preparing for September.

"I would love to give everyone certainty … but we can't," Dr Young said. "This is a day by day development."

Dr Young said closing international and the Queensland domestic borders were behind the state's success in controlling the spread of the disease.

"We need to hold firm and we need to manage our domestic borders very, very carefully," Dr Young said.


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Annaliese Battista. Picture: Mike Batterham
Annaliese Battista. Picture: Mike Batterham


Ms Battista warned delaying reopening of borders from an initially mooted July to September would cost the city tourism sector $500 million.

"We estimate the difference between the border reopening in July and September is $500 million," she said. "This decision is a take from the Gold Coast tourism business pocket. It is a very serious situation

"The tourism sector is frankly surprised and confused because they have been working to the roadmap plan. Many businesses which can hold on to July are not in a position to hold on until September.

"There was a lot of balance between health and the economy drivers at the crux of the crisis. It is concerning now we have done an amazing job on the health side that the economy as a consideration has totally gone out the window.

"It is a very, very strange decision and stance by the Premier given how pragmatic the decision making has been to date and the sector is justifiably confused and frustrated."

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The nation's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly warned Queensland authorities to "take into account" the benchmark they have set for opening the borders - four weeks without a case - was unlikely to be reached soon.

"It may be some time for us to get four weeks without any cases in the larger states so I hope Queensland will take that into account," he said.

He added there had never been a decision at a national level to shut borders with states and territories acting to "protect their own populations".

"From a medical point of view I can't see why the borders are still closed," he said.

Police maintain the checks at the QLD/NSW border at Coolangatta Picture: Adam Head
Police maintain the checks at the QLD/NSW border at Coolangatta Picture: Adam Head

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the tourism industry would be able to bounce back from the shutdowns.

"Tourism will always survive here, we have a robust industry and they are really hurting, I understand that. Unfortunately NSW and Victoria have community spread and they have to get that under control before visitors come.

"We love you, but you will have to come later."

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has urged earlier relaxation of border controls, saying this week: "States with border controls till in place, assuming we continue to see very low rates of transmission they ought to be looking at opening the borders."

Yesterday, one new case was detected in Queensland. There are two active cases on the Gold Coast.

Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce President Martin Hall said he had strongly backed the State Government steps to slow COVID-19 but "now we must be looking towards recovery".

"We simply cannot afford to keep the borders closed for much longer."

Broadwater LNP MP David Crisafulli said: "To have dates constantly moving while our COVID diagnosis remain on the same trajectory is a concern. Businesses are bordering on bankruptcy and people are hanging on to their livelihoods by their fingertips."

Originally published as $500 million: The cost of keeping the border closed