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States bicker over border closures

National

State premiers continue to lob verbal grenades at each other as the battle over border closures heats up, with Premier Steven Marshall saying South Australia’s restrictions would remain in place for “economic” as well as health reasons.

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The debate was reignited yesterday when Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said there was no reason borders should remain closed “from a medical point of view” and noting it was never a federal direction that they should be.

Marshall today told reporters the chief and deputy medical officers “at the national level can have their opinions”.

“But the opinions that are most important to us in SA are those from the local level,” he said.

“And if we keep out borders closed we can accelerate lifting restrictions in our state… if we open up national borders we can only move as fast as the slowest jurisdiction.”

He said border restrictions mandating two-week isolation periods for new entrants would remain in place “for health reasons but also for economic reasons”.

READ MORE: Coronavirus – what we know today

But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian does not believe it makes sense to keep borders across Australia closed, given the number of new coronavirus infections has stabilised.

“I don’t think it’s logical to maintain the border closures for a prolonged period of time,” she told the ABC on Thursday.

“For Australia to really move forward as a nation during this very difficult economic time, as well as difficult health time, we do need our borders down.”

But her push for other states to ease border restrictions is falling on deaf ears.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has flatly rejected calls to let southerners back into her state.

“We are not going to be lectured to by a state that has the highest amount of cases in Australia,” she told reporters in Brisbane.

Federal government heavyweight Peter Dutton, who lives in Queensland, attacked the Labor premier.

He challenged Palaszczuk to look crumbling tourism operators in the eye and explain her hardline stance.

“There is just no logic to her position,” Dutton told 2GB radio.

“If she is conducting a social experiment, well, let us know.”

NSW will relax travel rules within the state from June 1 with regional travel allowed for interstate visitors and residents.

But Queensland is holding firm, telling its tourism industry to prepare for a likely September reopening of its state borders.

Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young has flagged the possibility of borders remaining shut beyond September if infections aren’t controlled.

SA, WA and the NT are also maintaining hardline approaches amid fears of a second wave of infections.

Australia’s deputy chief medical officer says there’s no reason for borders to be shut.

“From a medical point of view, I can’t see why the borders are still closed,” Paul Kelly told reporters.

Australia is only recording a handful of new cases each day and has just 535 active cases.

The coronavirus has claimed 100 Australian lives and infected more than 7000 people since the outbreak began.

SA, the ACT and the NT have no active cases, while Western Australia has four and Queensland 12.

WA Premier Mark McGowan knows his tough stance is frustrating political leaders on the other side of the country.

“It might inconvenience the NSW premier and some people from the eastern states, but frankly, I don’t give a damn,” he said.

Professor Kelly said there would almost certainly be more cases found as the nation’s economy and society began reopening, but the system was designed to find them quickly and minimise transmissions.

-with AAP

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