Outback invasion: Grey Nomads told to go home
UP TO 10,000 interstate coronavirus refugees - dubbed the "cruise ships of the Outback" - have descended on Queensland bush towns, sparking outrage from antsy locals and promises of ramped-up police patrols.
Queensland Outback mayors have called for an immediate resolution as concerns are raised about the potential for the coronavirus convoys to bring the disease to regions that are so far pandemic-free.
Most of the caravans, campervans and sedans have Victoria and NSW number plates - the states where most coronavirus cases are. The majority are grey nomads.
Federal Emergency Management Minister and Member for Maranoa David Littleproud has written to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to help find a solution for the tourists, who slipped into Queensland before the borders were closed.
Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones told The Courier-Mail: "The fear in the Outback just highlights how critical it was for us to close Queensland's borders.
"What these communities are telling me is they've seen caravans with people trying to escape coronavirus in NSW and Victoria, and come to Queensland's Outback where they know there are no cases.
"We're working with police to ramp up patrols to intercept southerners at the border."
Blackall-Tambo Regional Council Mayor Andrew Martin told The Courier-Mail it was estimated up to 10,000 interstate runaways were now in their council areas.
And Goondiwindi Regional Council Mayor designate Lawrence Springborg said he saw "hundreds and hundreds" of out-of-towners cross the NSW/Queensland border this week before heading off into outback Queensland.
"It was just like a cavalcade,'' Mr Springborg said.
"People are worried about those people in town wandering around (that) they don't know."
He said the State Government had to give Queenslanders time to return after announcing they would shut the border, but many took advantage of it.
"I'd say this is non-essential travel."
Cr Martin said locals now had to share supplies and potential medical treatment if there were an outbreak.
"I'll defend my community with my last drop of blood,'' he said.
In correspondence to Ms Palaszczuk, Mr Littleproud said: "There is growing community anxiety in rural Queensland … that the border measures have led to an influx of people from outside the state. These movements raise concerns that this may lead to cases of the virus in these regions. "
Ms Jones said the State Government had taken a number of measures to tackle the issue, including shutting down caravan parks to tourists.
"All levels of government need to see if there are greater measures we can take to discourage grey nomads from travelling right now."
Originally published as Outback invasion: The new potential carriers