Australia Easter travel in doubt as Queensland awaits COVID-19 lockdown decision

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Queensland authorities added dozens of venues to more than 80 potential coronavirus exposure sites across the state as residents of the capital, Brisbane, awaited a decision on whether a three-day lockdown would be extended into the Easter holidays.

More than two million residents in Australia’s third largest city have been asked to stay home until Thursday evening as authorities rushed to contain two distinct virus clusters, which had grown to 15 cases as of Tuesday.

Residents are allowed to leave their homes only for essential work, healthcare, grocery shopping or exercise, and must wear masks when they step outside.

Eight new locally acquired cases, all linked to the virulent UK variant of the virus, were reported on Tuesday in Queensland and authorities warned more cases could be detected in the coming days.

Several states have closed their borders with the state, throwing Easter travel plans into disarray, with Brisbane Airport expecting a 85% fall in the number of domestic travelers by this weekend compared with its pre-lockdown target.

The Easter long weekend and two-week school term break is a busy time for Australian travel.

Snap lockdowns, border closures and speedy tracking systems have helped Australia to keep its coronavirus numbers relatively low. It has reported just under 29,300 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began.