This week the Queensland Government eased the corona virus “Gathering” restrictions – how many people can gather in particular places. With workplaces currently booking Christmas Parties, this will be a big plus for our hospitality businesses.

New Limits

Here is a list of the new limits:

Homes and Public Spaces increases from 40 people to 50

Indoor Venues increases from one person per 4 square metres to one person per 2 square metres. Patrons must still observe the 1.5 m social distancing rule.

The increased limit applies to cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs, places of worship, museums, art galleries and indoor play areas.

How to Calculate

 The rule gives you the maximum number of patrons who can occupy a space at one time. Multiply the length of the space by the width of the space, then divide by two. That is your maximum capacity. It is a good idea to put up signage saying something like “Due to COVIDsafe rules this space is limited to XX number of people”.

Weddings 200 people can attend a wedding and all guests can dance.

Funerals 200 people

Indoor Events increase from 50 % capacity to 100% capacity. This applies to all seated and ticketed venues – cinemas, indoor sports spectators, live theatre, live music. It does not specifically mention school awards nights.

However, it does also say that performers can reduce the distance from the audience from 4 metres to 2 metres, with the exception of choirs. Choirs must remain separated from the audience by four metres.

Open Air Stadiums increase from 75% seated capacity to 100% This was brought in for Wednesday night’s State of Origin game.

Outdoor Events increase from 1,000 people to 1,500 with a COVIDsafe checklist. Larger events will still require a COVIDsafe plan. This should allow most of Gregory’s Christmas and New Year community events to proceed, like carols by candlelight.

Outdoor events that are larger than 1,500 attendees will still require a COVIDsafe Plan.

Outdoor Dancing is now allowed, for example at outdoor concerts or music festivals.


South Australian COVID19 Outbreak

SA has had a cluster emerge from a quarantine hotel. As I write this, the number of cases in the cluster is 22. There are zero new cases today, despite ramped up testing. The cases seem to be family-based, centred on close contacts of a worker at the quarantine hotel.

A Cluster, Not a Hotspot

Technically, these 22 cases do not meet the Commonwealth definition of a “hotspot”. That definition requires 10 locally acquired cases a day, averaged over 3 days.

A simpler way to say this is over 30 new cases, in 3 consecutive days. This is for metropolitan areas. In rural areas it is a lower threshold: 9 in three days.

Six Day Lock Dow in Adelaide

Nevertheless, the SA government snapped Adelaide into the hardest of lockdowns. Residents were not even to be allowed to leave the house for an hour of daily exercise.

Toilet Paper Hoarders Strike Again

 The lockdown was brought in with little warning, but that didn’t stop panic shoppers stripping the supermarket shelves in a matter of hours before the lock down came into force.

To Help Contact Tracing System

The Premier of SA was at pains to assure residents that the lockdown would only be for six days. This implies that he was worried the contact tracers might have been overwhelmed by a rapidly spreading strain of the virus. And so it now seems!

Surprise – Lock Down Ends

By mid-morning today, the SA Police Commissioner told us the basis on which lockdown was imposed had been discovered to be untrue. He said the lockdown would be lifted as quickly as possible. Residents would be able exercise outside, effective immediately.

Not a Fast-spreading Strain but a Secret Job

A security guard at the Peppers Quarantine Hotel caught the virus. He spread it through his family and friends.

He also had a second job at a pizza shop where he spread it to a co-worker.

For unknown reasons, this co-worker told contact tracers he was a customer at the shop, not a worker. When he tested positive, the race was on to trace every person who had bought a pizza in the previous fortnight, and then to trace all of their contacts. More than 20,000 people were tested in 48 hours.

Ripples felt at Suncorp Stadium
Meanwhile, Queensland had instantly slammed the border shut, catching many South Australian visitors by surprise. They were ordered into hotel quarantine.

Our new health minister Yvette D’Ath put out a media release warning any South Australian ticket holders not to try to attend the State of Origin on Wednesday night. She had asked Ticketek to provide the seat numbers of all tickets purchased in South Australia.

Questions About Hotel Quarantine

For me, the whole saga once again raises questions about the risk of hotel quarantines. We shouldn’t be treating the coronavirus pandemic as a once-in-a-lifetime event.

We know it isn’t. We have recently lived through Ebola, SARs and MERs. We didn’t get vaccines for those. We may not get one for COVID19. Meanwhile, we have to learn to live with it.

Do We Need Quarantine Stations?
Part of that is putting in place effective quarantine policies that maximise the advantage our island-status gives us. We need to be able to “turn on” the quarantine switch whenever required.

Historically, all states maintained permanent quarantine stations, often on islands. The Yungaba Immigration and Quarantine Centre at Kangaroo Point has now been converted to very posh, “heritage” apartments. Sydney’s quarantine station is now a tourist attraction.

Maybe, we have to look at this again. Having potentially infectious people quarantine in skyscrapers in the middle of our biggest cities seems an unnecessary gamble that our forefathers would never have taken.

Quarantine Workers Must Be Tested

After the South Australia scare, I was surprised to see Paul Kelly, our acting federal CMO, say that all quarantine workers will now be subject to a coronavirus test every seven days.

Now? You mean this wasn’t Standard Practice?

So, it took nearly a year for federal and state health experts to discover this might be a good idea.

Even after Melbourne showed us how quarantine workers provide the virus with an open door and transport, we still weren’t regularly testing these front-line workers.

Bravely Exposed
These workers – be they security or cleaners or hotel and restaurant staff – are brave to be exposing themselves to COVID19 every day they turn up for work.

With the horrible rise in infections overseas, the chance that there are infected people in hotel quarantine has probably never been higher.

Regular, Free Testing The Least We Can Do

We should have been providing testing for these workers from the get-go. Not just because they are the gateway to the community, but also because by doing these vital jobs, they are trying to keep us safe while putting themselves at risk. All their friends and family are at risk too.

Christmas Travel Plans

Meanwhile, Queenslanders are trying to decide on Christmas travel arrangements. I will outline the current border arrangements for you. But this week shows, once again, that the border arrangements can change in an instant. Christmas won’t change that!

Travel into Queensland

All travellers into Queensland, including returning residents, must complete a Border Declaration Pass. You must have a Pass for each traveller, even children. You can apply on-line and read more here.

The system now auto-selects the pass you need, based on your answers to questions. Applications are taking up to three business days to process, so you need to apply at least three days before you travel.

You will have to upload supporting documents for verification purposes, but you also need to bring copies of those documents with you so police can check them when you are physically at a Queensland border checkpoint.

Remember, you will need this for each traveller, regardless of age.

Travel from Declared Hotspots

All travellers who have been in a declared “hotspot” within the last 14 days will be turned away at the border. Many travellers from hotspots are choosing to travel first to a non-hotspot for 14 days before entering Queensland. I hear Byron Bay is popular!

The following are still declared “hotspots”:

South Australia20 hotspots, including Adelaide

NSW32 hotspots, covering Greater Sydney

Victoria – all of Victoria is still considered a “hotspot”

No other states or territories are considered hotspots and their residents can enter freely, but must still have a Border Declaration Pass. The same applies to all of regional NSW.

Travel Through Hotspots

You can still travel through hotspots, such as Sydney airport, if you travel directly through with no non-essential stops. You can read more here. This also gives you information about exemptions for certain essential purposes.

You can also travel through a hotspot by road, as long as you don’t stay overnight in a hotspot, only stop for essential fuel and supplies and wear a mask when stopping. Children under 12 years of age don’t need to wear a mask.

End of the NSW Border Bubble

As all of NSW, with the exception of Greater Sydney, is no longer a declared hotspot, there is no longer a “border bubble”. All regional NSW residents can freely enter Queensland – and Queenslanders can travel into regional NSW. Only travel to and from Greater Sydney is still subject to restrictions.

Agricultural Workers Class Exemptions

Following the recent changes to Queensland border passes, I just wanted to confirm the extension of the class exemptions for farmers and agribusiness workers needing to move between Queensland and NSW hotspots  ( the “Z Class” Queensland Border Declaration Pass). These are now valid until 11.59 pm on December 31, 2020.

Travelling from Queensland

Two things to keep in mind: you will need a Queensland Border Declaration Pass to return to Queensland and every state and territory has different border restrictions and different gathering restrictions when you get there.

This Queensland Government webpage has embedded links for each state and territory.

Living Wills and Enduring Power of Attorney

On a different topic altogether, but an important one just the same. On November 30, 2020, important changes to Queensland’s guardianship system come into effect.

The most visible aspect is that you will need to use new forms when putting in place Enduring Powers of Attorney or writing a “Living” Will.

What Is a Living Will?

In Queensland they are called “Advance Health Directives”. People can create one at any time, and many people choose to do so if they have a chronic condition that may lead to complications or if they are about to undergo an operation in hospital.

They let you outline what medical treatment you want to receive if you can no longer make decisions for yourself. For instance, you may ask not to be kept alive if you suffered irreversible brain damage and can’t communicate. This might be the result of a car accident, workplace accident, stroke or fall.

You can also outline the quality of life that would be acceptable to you in various situations where you can’t recover from serious incapacitation.

The new forms come with new explanatory guides to help you. You can read more about the changes here.

Gambling Community Benefit Fund Grants

Just a reminder to community groups who may be thinking about applying for a Gambling Community Benefit Fund Grant. There are no rounds currently open as Round 107 closed on October 31, 2020.

The next round, Round 108, will open in mid-January and close on February 28, 2021.

Remember you need to register first, before you submit an application. You can find out more here. You can register your organisation here .

Congratulations to the Class of 2020

Congratulations to all of Gregory’s Year 12s. Today marks your graduation from school and your entry into adult life!

The Class of 2020 has been tested by new challenges all the way through your schooling. You are the first preppies, the first Year Sevens in high schools and the first graduates to sit the ATAR exams.

As if to top it off, you have faced home schooling and COVID19 restrictions in your final year. Getting your driver’s license, going on Year 12 school camps, your formals, schoolies – and let’s face it, parties – have all been affected.

Give yourself a pat on the back. You have come through it all and learned the hard way the truth of John Lennon’s words “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

I know your parents, teachers, coaches, families and friends are wishing you every success.

Special Congratulations Lachlan Little
I want to say a special congratulations to Lachlan Little who has been our Year 12 school-based trainee in the Longreach Gregory office. It has been great getting to know you. I think you have taught us as much as we have taught you. Well done Lachie!

Wear Sunscreen
This letter to the Class of 1999 is still a beauty and I’ll leave you with the link to a You-Tube version.

The original text was a column in an unremarkable town newspaper in the US. Australian film-maker Baz Luhrmann came across it and contacted the writer for permission to put it into an A/V format. The result is still going viral! It is still worth a quick listen after all these years. Wear Sunscreen.

Thank You for Reading

Thanks for reading and staying up to date.

As always, I welcome any comments or information by return email.

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Kindest Regards – and stay safe,

Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory