A tough new definition of virus hot spots that would keep Australia’s borders shut for longer has been scrapped after it was leaked to media.
A tough new definition of virus hot spots that would keep Australia’s borders shut for longer has been scrapped after it was leaked to media.

Leaked document exposes border wars

A tough new definition of COVID-19 hot spots proposed by health experts that would keep Australia's borders closed for longer has been scrapped after it was leaked to the media.

The behind-the-scenes wrangling over when Queensland will reopen state borders was laid bare today after a leaked document appeared to back the state's tough stance and included a definition on when a region is "COVID-free" to help guide when interstate travel can resume.

The document, obtained by news.com.au, is marked "proposed Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) statement" and defines a "COVID-Free Zone as an area that has no locally acquired cases that pose a risk to the community in the previous 28 days."

That's a high bar that closely mirrors the proposal that the Queensland Premier has put forward as the trigger to reopen the border with New South Wales.

But just hours after the document leaked on Wednesday, federal government sources insisted the document was "not the current draft" and that the term "COVID-free zone" no longer exists in the current version.

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The document has been rejected after it was leaked to the media. Picture: Supplied
The document has been rejected after it was leaked to the media. Picture: Supplied

The border closures have become a political football after the Queensland Premier accused the Prime Minister of "bullying" her over the issue as she fights a state election.

The expert health panel's proposed statement obtained by news.com.au had proposed three definitions to help guide the borders reopening defining regions as: "A COVID-free zone", a "COVID-controlled zone", and a "COVID-community transmission zone".

It defines a "COVID-Controlled Zone" as "an area that has locally acquired cases in the previous 28 days, but each case has a known source."

"To be controlled, the person who was the source of the infection is identified quickly, such as within 48 hours. The risk of exportation of cases from the zone to other areas is low,'' the document states.

The third category, a "COVID-community transmission zone" is defined as an area where the source of the infection is not known and the disease is spreading, such as Victoria.

The AHPPC's definition will not be discussed at the National Cabinet this Friday according to federal government sources because it "needs more work."

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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was not happy with the PM’s border ‘bullying’. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was not happy with the PM’s border ‘bullying’. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt

In July, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed she had been given no prior notice that Queensland would close its borders to all Sydneysiders on the grounds the entire region was a hotspot.

"It would have been nice if she told me,'' Ms Berejiklian said.

"The economic consequences of this (decision) in Queensland or South Australia will hurt much more than it hurts NSW."

New 'hotspot' rules to determine when state borders can reopen previously released by the Morrison Government suggested metropolitan areas would be no-go areas if they record 30 new COVID-19 cases or more in three days.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pushing for borders to be opened. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pushing for borders to be opened. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The new rules suggested Melbourne and Sydney will need to get their daily cases down to fewer than 10 a day before other states agree to open borders.

But in regional towns the bar would be even lower in the event of an outbreak, with just nine cases over three days triggering a 'hotspot' rating.

"There will be further discussion on how that can be more specifically defined," the Prime Minister said.

"This will take some time to get that right. What I'm saying today is that seven out of eight states and territories have agreed with that ambition for Christmas. And whether that's achieved in Western Australia or not, well, that will be up to Western Australia."

Originally published as Leaked document exposes border wars


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