New changes to COVID19 restrictions come into force from midnight today (May 15). Under the plan, we are all members of the Outback Club – Queensland’s designated Outback Zone for the purposes of COVID19 management.
Remoteness and Health
The Outback Zone has been defined with two things in mind – the lack of COVID19 cases (zero, ever) and remoteness in regard to the distance allowance for recreational driving.
For the rest of Queensland, the distance allowed for recreational driving is being increased from 50 to 150 kilometres. This means that western centres like Charters Towers have been excluded from the Outback Zone because the 150 kilometre allowance already lets them travel to Townsville.
You Can Drive Further
For those of us who live in the Outback Zone, it will be 500 kilometres. This recognizes the distances between outback settlements. The increased allowance is only for residents of the Outback zone, not for visitors.
Stay In the Zone
In addition, the 500 kilometre allowance is only for travel within the Outback Zone. For instance, if you live in Emerald and want to travel east, out of the zone, you still only have an allowance of 150 kilometres. However, if you are travelling west into the zone, you have 500 kilometres to play with. This would get you all the way to Longreach and would let families from the Central Highlands consider an outback holiday in the winter school break.
Map of the Zone
You can see a map here https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au/government-actions/outback-queensland.
All of Gregory falls into the zone. These arrangements are far more sensible than treating us the same as Brisbane with a 50 kilometre allowance.
Green Light for Retailers
A number of important restrictions affecting small business will also change this weekend.
Retail shops will be able to re-open, including for “non-essential” items. Shops will need to enforce social distancing for staff and customers.
Social Distancing in Shops
Social distancing has two aspects for businesses.
The first is the four-square-metre rule which will set the number of people you can have in your shop at any one time.
Once customers are in the shop, they must maintain 1.5 metres between themselves and other individuals. Click here to see information on how to use the “four-square-metre” rule and how to help your staff and customers maintain the 1.5 metre rule: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces/industry-information/retail
If you are planning on some shopping, do be kind to our retailers and their staff. They will be anxious about following all the rules and doing their best.
Looking Good Again
Beauty therapists and nail salons will also be able to re-open from this weekend. They will need to keep a record of clients’ contact details in case they are needed for contact tracing, but most would have this in their booking register anyway.
They are limited to a maximum of ten clients at any one time and must also try to apply the four-square-metre rule and the 1.5 metre social distancing rule.
The Following Services Are Allowed
Facials, Manicures, Pedicures and Nail Painting, Eyelash Extensions, Eyebrow shaping, waxing and laser hair removal.
The Following Services Are Not Allowed
These services are still specifically not allowed: saunas, spray tans, water-based spa services, massage (unless offered by a qualified and registered practitioner whose treatment is for the management or prevention of an injury and whose services are eligible for health-fund rebate), tattoos, body piercing, micro-needling and any skin penetration service (unless performed by a registered Health Practitioner)
Time for a Slap Up Meal!
Cafes, coffee shops, pubs, clubs, restaurants, and hotel dining rooms can re-open for dining-in. They will be limited to a maximum of 20 customers and customers may be asked for proof of residence in the Outback zone.
This is very welcome, but it creates a question for motel and hotel operators who have continued to have business guests travelling into the zone for essential work.
As they are not locals, can they eat in the dining room? If they do, are they limited to 10 customers or part of the 20? The published information does not make this clear so I have written to the Health Directions Unit to ask for advice. I can’t say how long this may take, but I will keep you updated.
Visitors to Your Home
From May 15, you are allowed 5 visitors to your home (up from two). These visitors can all be from separate households. This will be wonderful for all ages.
You will now be able to have ten people at a wedding – up from five. Social distancing must still be applied. I suspect that those corona-virus wedding pictures are going to have a very distinct look about the group shots.
Funerals can have a maximum attendance of 20 individuals in indoor venues or 30 in outdoor settings. Social distancing must be applied.
Churches and Places of Worship
Up to 10 people can now gather in a place of worship. It seems odd that 20 people can eat in a café or a pub, with social distancing, but churches are still limited to 10 people. I will be following this up and will keep you updated.
Outdoor gatherings have increased from two to ten people.
Fossicking on the Gemfields
Fossicking is once again allowed across the State including on the Central Queensland Gemfields.
Public Places and Spaces
The following public facilities can now re-open: swimming pools, libraries, parks, playgrounds, skate parks, outdoor gyms and personal training.
Barbecues, swimming areas, playgrounds, shower and toilet facilities in Sunwater recreation areas at lakes, dams and weirs will be open again.
Real Estate Inspections and Auctions
Real Estate agents can conduct auctions and open house inspections once again. There is a limit of 10 persons and social distancing observed.
Full Return to School
It has just been announced today that all grades will return to school on May 25.
A Big Experiment
These easier restrictions are a big “real-time” experiment. They will be reviewed after a month, in light of their impact on our COVID19 infection rate. We must all hope that there is no upswing in new infections.
The problem lies with being human! With a more normal routine, it will be all too easy to forget to be vigilant about hygiene and social distancing.
Aussie Tenacity and Endurance
We must apply all our Aussie tenacity and endurance - because this is a very slippery opponent. Remember, to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, when ever you can.
Many businesses will have hand sanitizer freely available to customers. Use it whenever you see it.
Do the Gregory Waltz
When you are in the presence of others, remember to keep your distance. It is 1.5 metres – a big step back and a step to the side as well.
You Can Now Request a Test
You can now request a test if you have any symptoms of COVID19. Just ring your GP and ask them. They will tell you where to go for a test. Don’t be embarrassed. COVID19 has spread in clusters where people didn’t get tested.
What Symptoms Should I Watch Out For?
It puzzled me to hear that in the UK they have only been testing people who had a fever and a cough. That must surely be a factor in their current tragedy.
In contrast, Australia accepts that there is a suite of symptoms that can vary from person to person.
You should be tested if you have any of the following symptoms: fever (a “temperature”, as we Aussies say), a cough, sore throat, shortage of breath, fatigue, headaches, aches and pains, runny or stuffy nose. Diarrhea can also be a symptom in some people.
If You Are Sick – Don’t Leave Home
If you have any of these symptoms, don’t go to work or school.
Some of Australia’s worst clusters have resulted from workers assuming it was “just a cold” and soldiering on at work. In the worst example, that worker infected 70 others and there were some deaths.
Stay at home, ring your GP and ask for a test. Then you can leave it to your doctor to decide if it is a cold, flu or COVID19.
Download the App
I am still encouraging people to download the App. It has the potential to turbo-charge our response and containment. Your privacy is stringently protected, in contrast to using Google Maps, Google Search, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix and a myriad of other apps.
We must continue to act as if the virus is walking amongst us. I have little doubt that it is.
A Surprise Success Story – and an Inspiration
Vietnam is a surprise success story in terms of COVID19. Despite a long land-border with China, it has had only 330 cases and zero deaths.
According to the ABC, Vietnam's success is due to a quick response based on strategic testing, aggressive contact tracing and effective public communications campaigns.
They also have mandatory 14 day quarantine for returning travellers and isolation for all infected patients. Most importantly, the Vietnamese people have been washing their hands, wearing facemasks, and staying at home as much as possible.
You can read the ABC story here if you are interested https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-13/coronavirus-vietnam-no-deaths-success-in-south-east-asia/12237314
I hope the story inspires you to continue Australia’s excellent efforts against COVID19.
And Now For Something Completely Different …
It has been a busy week in Queensland politics – Jackie Trad stepped down from her Cabinet position, our new Treasurer is not bringing down a budget but is making a bid to buy Virgin Airlines and Queensland Parliament is about to sit again.
Let’s Be Clear – Jackie Has Not Left the Building
Media has been acting as if Jackie Trad has left Queensland politics, even running pictures of her supposedly carrying belongings from her office in the “Tower of Power” and pondering standing for the Senate.
Don’t be fooled. Jackie was not sacked. Jackie stepped aside at a time of her own choosing. By doing so, she makes Labor’s re-election far more likely.
Importantly, she gets to concentrate on retaining her own seat, which is under challenge by the Greens.
… And She Will Be Back
This has very little, if anything, to do with another CCC investigation. She didn’t bat an eyelid the last time. Remember the house purchased near a Cross River Rail station which she had privileged knowledge about.
Yes, she is under investigation by the CCC again, but I don’t think that worries her. If Jackie Trad and Labor are re-elected, you can bet she will be back in Cabinet. Until then, we might be watching a ventriloquy act.
The new “Deputy Premier” is -
Steven Miles, the Health Minister, has been appointed Deputy Premier. Like Jackie, he is from the Left faction, as is new Minister Glenn Butcher.
So, Jackie Trad’s left faction gained a new cabinet position out of the whole three-bean trick.
Jackie Trad’s left faction still holds the most votes in the caucus and in the Cabinet. They aren’t shy in running their own shadow government.
Media publicly reports that they hold meetings as a faction where they decide issues before those issues go to Cabinet. So, I guess at least we know who is really running the State: Gary Bullock.
Musical Chairs at Treasury
Thanks to these shenanigans, we are now onto our third Under-Treasurer in three years with the appointment of Rachel Hunter. We also have a new Treasurer – Cameron Dick. What we don’t have is a state budget.
Queensland has lacked economic leadership for the last five years. Cameron Dick has been in an economic portfolio since the last election.
He was the Manufacturing Minister when Queensland lost 18,000 manufacturing jobs. Queensland had the highest unemployment rate in the nation, the highest rate of bankruptcy and state debt approaching $90 billion.
This was all before COVID19. Not the way to enter a crisis.
So What’s the Final Damage?
It is hard to say, because Labor cancelled the Budget. This is unheard of. The reason given was the COVID19 emergency.
But they are on their own.
Queensland will be the only state in the nation that fails to deliver a budget this year. Other states seem to realise a thorough and transparent reporting of the state’s finances is the first step in responding to COVID19 and also in planning how to recover from it.
No Budget, No Estimates, No Scrutiny before We Vote
So, Queensland will go to the polls on Saturday October 31 without knowing how much debt corona virus has added. Jackie Trad said she thought $4 Billion; others say double that and more.
With no budget, there is no plan for recovery. I think we are in for a hard candy Christmas.
Thank You and Feel Free to Share
As always, thank you for reading this and staying up to date.
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If You Need Help
Both my Emerald and Longreach offices remain open, although because of COVID19 we are doing our work by phone and email, rather than face-to-face.
If you need help or advice, please don’t hesitate to ring and we will do our very best for you. (Emerald Office PH 07 4913 1000; Longreach office PH 07 4521 5700.)
As always, if you have a comment or an issue to raise, you can simply contact me by return email.
Kindest Regards – and keep doing your best against COVID19,
Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.
To download the Federal Government’s app search for COVIDsafe in your app store.
Federal Government and National Cabinet Measures www.australia.gov.au.
COVID19 Information for Workplaces https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces
Queensland Health Corona Virus Information www.COVID19.qld.gov.au
Queensland Government Business Assistance www.business.qld.gov.au