We passed your test QLD, now open up
Border celebrations between NSW and Victoria have heaped another wave of pressure on Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to change her stance on the sunshine state's hard border.
New South Wales on Monday recorded 29 days with health authorities being able to link every case to a known cluster. Queensland Health set a target of 28 days in August when the borders closed.
There were no locally transmitted cases of coronavirus recorded in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday.
In a statement NSW Health advised a previous unknown case had been linked to a cluster.
"NSW Health can today advise that the recent Moss Vale cluster, the source of which was until now unknown, is connected to a previously reported cluster in Liverpool, after extensive investigations revealed a 'missing link' between the two," it said.
"Intensive work involving epidemiological and genomic analysis and antibody testing indicate that the five cases in the Moss Vale cluster and the 13 cases in the Liverpool private clinic cluster are linked by an additional two people who had contact with both clusters."
But despite reaching the milestone, NSW Health officials have been told to wait another eight days before a decision will be made.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the Queensland Premier's approach was "lacking logic" and called for an intervention from Ms Palaszczuk asking her to "do what is the humane thing to do".
Mr Hazzard said Queensland should move immediately to reopen the border.
"I'm calling for the Queensland Premier to intervene and do what is the humane thing to do," he said.
The Minister has sighted emails between NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant and Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.
It is understood Dr Young advised the information would be used in assessing the border situation at the end of the month.
The last unlinked case of COVID-19 in NSW was on October 24 when a person now associated with the Hoxton Park cluster was diagnosed.
"The Queensland Premier set an insane bar to jump over to allow families to be able to come back together across the Queensland border," Mr Hazzard said yesterday.
"Because of the incredible detective work by NSW public health tracers, that bar has been jumped. There is no argument whatsoever on a health basis for keeping the border closed.
"It's time for Premier Palaszczuk to set aside political cruelty and let families plan for Christmas."
Mr Hazzard said he'd experienced "so many people asking for help to get to Queensland".
"More often than not Queensland just ignores the request. There should be no more playing stupid games and no more excuses - just open the border," he said.
A spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk said "border restrictions were reviewed at the end of the month".
VICTORIA RACES AHEAD OF NSW IN EASING RULES
Harsh restrictions in NSW are cruelling attempts to revive the ailing hospitality industry and threatening to dash family Christmas, while Victoria races ahead with a spate of major rule changes in time for the festive period.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday announced smaller venues in his state would operate under fewer restrictions than their NSW counterparts, moving to a one person per 2sq m rule up to 50 people.
Australia's worst-affected coronavirus state is also set to allow households to host 30 people for Christmas lunch while only 20 people are allowed to visit households in NSW.
The Victorian announcement renewed calls from restaurant workers and function organisers in NSW, who have pleaded for Premier Gladys Berejiklian to lift the one person per 4sq m rule governing their venues.
NSW will soon be the only jurisdiction in Australia to be operating under the 4sq m rule with no public timeline on when that will change.
The 4sq m rule currently applies in South Australia following the recent Adelaide outbreak but capacity limits are set to revert to one person per 2sq m from December 1.
Mr Andrews said the 2sq m rule for smaller venues "is about jobs and making sure those businesses can survive and repair and rebuild", and follows "feedback and deep engagement with that sector".
Venues operating under the 2 sqm rule in Victoria would need to use a QR code sign-in system, mandatory for hospitality venues in NSW from Monday.
The NSW hospitality industry believes now is the time for NSW to also boost capacity.
Chef and restaurateur Luke Mangan said it was "ludicrous" Victoria was pulling ahead of NSW.
"It's time to give a boost to the heartbeat of our city: the restaurants, cafes, wine bars and pubs," he writes in Monday's Telegraph.
He says doubling capacity under the 2sq m rule could see smaller venues take in an extra $10,000 a week.
"Premier, let's not ruin what you've done for this state so far by holding us back where other states are opening up," he writes.
It is understood the NSW government is close to a decision on relaxing the 4sq m rule.
Senior ministers will push for more-relaxed rules at this week's COVID crisis cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Responding to the Victorian Premier's announcement, Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres said: "I also noticed their deficit is $23 billion after they shut down their economy for over 100 days.
"I'd rather be a hospitality venue owner in NSW and have been able to trade rather than be closed for months like Victoria," he said.
Mr Ayres said the government was "actively looking" at the square metre rules and was "acutely aware of how important this is for the hospitality industry".
Ms Berejiklian also took a swipe at states that, she said, "are moving very quickly to shut down their entire economies when they have a couple of cases".
"I want people to feel confident that NSW has a strategy (and) that we're moving forward. We have a COVID recovery plan, which is pretty obvious," she said.
Anna Allison, who owns The Lion and Buffalo cafe at South Coogee, said a 2sq m rule would make "a huge difference" to her business.
"Right now we can seat 10 people inside, which used to be 35 pre-COVID. Outside we can seat more but when the weather's been bad it affects us a lot," Ms Allison said. "It makes it hard to run the business."
Meanwhile, function centre operators believe new rules coming into effect on Monday highlight an apparent inconsistency in how corporate events are held.
Up to 3000 people will be allowed to attend "controlled outdoor events". However, if a "corporate event" was held inside, it would be capped at just 300 people.
The rule has had a drastic impact on function centre The Venue Alexandria.
The warehouse events space has enough room to accommodate more than 800 people under the 4 sqm rule, but with corporate events limited to 300, director Hilton Cohn said its recovery plans were "at a standstill".
Mr Cohn said the warehouse venue has had "no more than half a dozen" events since March, when he would have otherwise operated "two to three a week".
"The restrictions really are just not allowing us to open our doors," he said.
Originally published as We passed your test QLD, now open up