Queensland’s decision to mandate vaccines for cross-border freight drivers will ease some of their testing requirements while increasing pressure for a national approach following a fresh scare from the sector, which authorities have been warning will likely be behind the next outbreak.
Seven instances of interstate drivers bringing the virus into Queensland have been reported since late August, so far with minimal spread and often with the drivers only active in the community for one or two days before testing positive or returning to NSW.
But the latest case among four announced on Tuesday – a man who had been living in shared accommodation around inner-Brisbane for eight days while infectious – is a departure from such short stays. While much is still unknown about his circumstances or travel, several new contact tracing sites have already been listed.
“Regular testing has meant cases have been picked up quickly. But due to the nature of their work, we know that many freight workers and truck drivers are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
Under the new directions, all truck drivers entering the state, including those using a dedicated freight pass, must have received the first dose of a vaccine by October 15. Drivers must then have had their second dose, or have a booking for it, by November 15. A pop-up vaccination clinic will also begin operating at Tugun, on the Gold Coast, from Tuesday afternoon.
Those who have left their vehicle in a hotspot area have previously been required to give evidence of a test within the past 72 hours. This will be dropped in favour of a negative test within a week of entry and a rolling seven-day testing regime while operating in the state.
Gary Mahon, chief executive of peak industry body the Queensland Trucking Association, said it had been expecting the move after mandates from the Victorian, South Australian and West Australian governments.
The easing of some onerous testing requirements was welcome, but Mr Mahon said his organisation has still been pushing for the use of rapid antigen testing to help further reduce the strain after navigating months of strict border measures.