Health experts have backed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s claim there is no legitimate health reason for state borders to remain closed, as pressure mounts on Queensland and Western Australia to reopen.

“Weve only done that for two respiratory viruses for measles and German measles and we only did that when we had a vaccine that was 90 per cent effective,” he said.
New Zealand embraced that policy and it didn’t work. It is possible the virus was circulating at low levels in relatively asymptomatic people. Taiwan is probably the only place in the world where the virus is gone. But it’s very easy for it to come back.
Politics is ‘driving the differences’
The comments came as Ms Berejiklian ramped up pressure over the Queensland border closure, after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said last week she would not be bullied or intimidated by the Prime Minister to reopen the border, ahead of the October 31 state election.
“Apart from the Victorian situation, which I’m pleased to say is looking better and better every day, the rest of Australia has absolutely no reason to have any borders between us,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Victoria is the only state which I think justifiably is cut off from the rest of Australia at this stage but I don’t feel that there’s any reason for any other state to have those borders closed.”
Western Australia has also rejected the PM’s national plan to reopen the country’s interstate borders by Christmas.
Others experts agreed with the NSW Premier that state borders should be opened to everywhere except Victoria where they should remain closed for the moment.
Officially decisions to close borders are being made on scientific and public health considerations but actually subjective opinions and political advantage are driving the differences in approach,” said Professor Robert Booy, senior professorial fellow at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.
Professor Sharon Lewin agrees with the NSW Premier. Jason South
NSW and Queensland have arbitrary border differences. Quite honestly, they should be working more closely together. WA and SA are even more politically driven.”
Director of the Doherty Institute Professor Sharon Lewin said she fully supported the reopening of the borders, except to Victoria.
“As a country we should focus on where community transmission is occurring and have an agreed approach to limiting movement in and out of those areas, or so called hot spots,” she said.
“Melbourne is currently one of those hotspots. But for elsewhere, where there is no community transmission, I see no reason to restrict movement. We need to live long term with COVID and need a cohesive national approach.”
Emma McBryde, professor of infectious diseases modelling and epidemiology at the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, at James Cook University, also agreed with the NSW Premier.
“The issue of movement should be a matter for experts. Borders play a minimal, almost accidental role in that,” she said.
Professor Shitij Kapur, dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at Melbourne University, urged the community to come to grips with living with the virus.
“The idea the vaccine will take care of everything, no, nothing like that will happen, there will still continue to be lots of COVID-19 in the world outside Australia, so we will have to have a dialogue about an acceptable level of risk,” he said.
“If you take the idea of driving, we allow people to drive, it’s a pretty risky activity, but we ask them not to drink and put a seatbelt on, that’s the sort of public and private trade-off of risk we do all the time, and perhaps we have to get to that even with COVID-19.”
Call for faster opening
Key health experts also mostly backed a push in Victoria for the first major step on October 26 to be brought forward by a week or two and the final stages accelerated as virus cases dramatically fall.
The state’s 11 new cases on Monday, the lowest in more than three months, included five linked to known outbreaks and two reclassified from August. There were 14 new cases on Sunday, but an overall increase of just eight after six were reclassified.
Chairman of epidemiology at Deakin University, Professor Catherine Bennett, said it seemed unlikely much would change next Monday, on September 28, when Victoria is expected to take a moderate step which includes childcare reopening and a staged return for prep to year two and VCE students.
But the next significant step on October 26, which includes some retail, outdoor hospitality and haircuts, could be accelerated if the trend continues, she thought.
“We look back at our own history, we opened up to stage two equivalent … even before we had masks and a new super-duper contact tracing team, we opened up with 17 cases and still rising with the Cedar Meats outbreak, so we know we can contain small clusters even when opened up, but we’ve still got another week to really close down these current areas of transmission,” she told 3AW radio.
Were definitely looking at things moving faster. Hopefully we could see some announcements about what might happen over the next week or two.
Andrews promises ‘common sense’
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said it was too early to announce any changes, but that he would use “common sense” to apply actual case numbers rather than the model used for the road map. However, he also cautioned against moving too fast.
“Let me be clear, if circumstances change, if we find ourself ahead of schedule not for one day, but in a manifest sense common sense always guides us,” Mr Andrews said.
“We will look at what sits behind the numbers and then we will have to make a judgment. It won’t be an easy judgment. Has enough time passed for us to be confident that the numbers we are seeing are a true reflection of how much virus is out there.”
The Premier said he needed to be cautious because of the lag between changing restrictions and case numbers, and warned that falling testing rates 7164 tests were conducted on Saturday could hold restrictions back.
“If I was to say, ‘I will open up these 10 different settings because we are ahead of schedule’, we would not see the results of that for two-three weeks and if it was the wrong call, you have a very significant problem. A very significant problem,” he said.
“Everyone wants to be open yesterday, but if we do it too fast, then we simply run an unacceptable risk of losing control and all of the hard work that everyone has done, all of the sacrifice, the massive contribution that people have made and are making every day, won’t count for much at all.
“So we just have to stay the course on this. Ultimately, these are very good numbers.”