COVID-19 - Happy Easter – April 8, 2020

We’ve made it to Easter! In these times, that’s something to celebrate. Sadly, much of this COVID19 update concerns cancellations.

The Shows Won’t Go On

Gregory’s shows have been an early casualty of the COVID19 restrictions and now the Ekka, too, has been cancelled for 2020. It is only the third time since it was established in 1876. The other two cancellations were during the Spanish Flu in 1919 and in World War 2, so that puts the COVID19 crisis in context.

Thanks to All the Committees

I would like to thank all the hardworking volunteers who had already put in most of the time and effort organizing our wonderful country shows for Gregory’s towns. Your efforts are greatly appreciated – although we will all have to wait until next year to enjoy the results.

Festival Cancellations

The Central Highlands Sunflower Festival has had to be cancelled for 2020. Thanks again to the hard-working volunteers.

Sadly, Birdsville’s Big Red Bash in July has also been cancelled. The star-studded line up of artists including Paul Kelly, Tim Finn, John Williamson, Glenn Shorrock and many others have all reconfirmed for next year.  Ticket holders can receive a refund or opt to keep them for automatic entry to next year’s festival.

Given how quickly these tickets sell out, that might be smart. Commiserations to organizer Greg Donovan and his team. This event brings a lot of visitors to the entire Central West.

Country Racing - And They’re Off, Too!

The following Gregory country races have been cancelled for April: Barcaldine, Blackall and Longreach. The Komatsu Alpha Races in June have also been cancelled.

Fillies but No Frocks

The races in Emerald this Saturday and on April 25 are still going ahead, but with the course closed to the public. There will be no catering, either. You can still watch the nine Emerald races on Sky Channel. You can still have a bet on them with TAB and Corporate Bookmakers.

Cattle Sales

Cattle sales are still proceeding, but please practise social distancing if you are attending one. Today’s Gracemere sale was cancelled because one of the RLX staff had close contact with a COVID19 case and the facility must now wait on the test results.

So, do that Gregory Waltz when attending cattle sales – a big step back and a step to the side.

Driving Tests Cancelled

The Department of Transport has cancelled all practical driving tests across Queensland from March 28, 2020 for three months due to COVID19.

If you had already booked a test, you’ll be given the option of a refund of your booking fees. Alternatively, you can retain your fees in your customer account to be used for a future booking.

It is not clear when the tests will resume because the ban may be extended. I will keep you updated on any change.

I realise this is very frustrating for our learner drivers and their parents. It has real impacts for Gregory families because we don’t have public transport for our young people.

Will School Resume After the Easter Holidays?

The Premier has said she will make an announcement early next week, possibly as soon as Tuesday, regarding the plans for kindy and school next term. I will update you ASAP.

Easter Church Services

Sadly, all places of worship must remain closed this Easter. Many churches are streaming services.

For the non-technical amongst us, ABC TV will broadcast Easter in Australia on Good Friday at 6 pm, a special Songs of Praise from Jerusalem on Easter Sunday at 11:30 am and The Pope’s Easter Vigil from the Vatican on Easter Sunday from 2.30pm.

From the Sublime to the Practical – Flu Shots

 Flu vaccines are now available from your GP and from some pharmacies and health services.

Get A Free Shot

All children aged from 6 months to 5 years are able to be vaccinated for free. All pregnant women and all people aged over 65 are also able to get free flu shots. All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over six months are also eligible for free flu shots.

Will It Help?

Because the flu and COVID19 both affect the lungs, can both be fatal, and may both be peaking around the same time, doctors are urging us to get a flu shot this year.

There will be an increased demand for flu vaccine this year, so if you have an existing medical condition that makes you particularly at risk, make sure your provider knows you need to be given priority.

Walk-Ins Welcome

If you are in Emerald, the Direct Chemist pharmacy at the Central Highlands Market Place on Codenwarra Road is offering flu shots this week on a walk-in basis from 10 am to 6 pm, no appointment or prescription needed.

Electronic Prescriptions

Many Australian pharmacies are now offering an electronic prescription service. This is a good adjunct to the Telehealth appointments being offered by GPs. The GP will be able to email your prescription to the pharmacist to be filled for collection. Ring your pharmacy to check first.

Gregory Gets First Rural COVID19 Clinic

Thanks to the federal Government, the Emerald GP SuperClinic has the first GP-led respiratory clinic in rural Australia.

The clinic will help people who have symptoms like fever, a cough, sore throat or breathing difficulties. By doing so, it will take pressure off Emerald’s GPs and the Emergency Department at Emerald Hospital. Congratulations to Dr Ewen McPhee and the entire team at the GP SuperClinic.

Testing Expanded

The Queensland Government is expanding testing for COVID19 in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Cairns. The aim is to try to pin down community transmission in these localities.

There are about 32 cases across these locations which can’t be explained. This expanded testing will give us a clearer picture of community transmission. In my opinion, this is where we get to grips with the real fight.

What About the Rest of Us?

For the rest of Queensland, COVID19 testing is still restricted to health care workers with acute respiratory symptoms and returning international travelers with symptoms or people who have been in close contact with a returned traveller and have symptoms.

It Walks Amongst Us

Because of the limited testing, we must continue to act as if the virus is already amongst us.

 Stay at home as much as possible. No more than two visitors to your home. No public gatherings of more than two people outside in public places. Stand out of the “splash zone” – 1.5 metres between people. As a rule of thumb, if you are talking to someone, take a big step back and then a step to the side.

(Someone told me the other day that this is starting to feel strangely normal. It seems rude when people stand too close now.)

Bathroom Karaoke

Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often. As soon as you get home from any outing, wash your hands. You need to do it for 20 seconds – or two full choruses of “Happy Birthday”.

So, How Are we Going?

As I write this, Queensland has 934 confirmed cases. That is an increase of only 13 from the day before. On Monday the increase was 14. On the previous Friday, the increase was 39.

These figures show a flattening of the curve. It is working and the quiet Queenslanders are doing their bit.

However, there is an anxious wait to see if the recent local government elections create another spike. This won’t be clear until the week after Easter.

Don’t be an Easter Dummy

Clearly, Easter holiday-makers ignoring the rules are another risk. The PM is pleading with us all to do the right thing.

No-one should be travelling away for Easter. Stay home and enjoy yourselves as a family.

  • Non-essential travel banned
  • Everyone must stay home except for buying essential food and supplies, for health care reasons or for compassionate care for the isolated or to provide care or assistance to an immediate family member
  • You can also leave home to go to work if it cannot be done from your home

Information for Businesses Hurt by COVID19

I am very sad for our businesses across Gregory who have been badly hurt by these COVID19 restrictions.

I must agree that the Queensland Government should be doing more. The LNP has written to Deputy Premier Jackie Trad to request a relaxation of land tax arrangements for businesses. This is something easily done, but we have yet to receive a reply.

However, there is relief for our country pubs and clubs in a three-month deferral on gaming-machine taxes. Note, once again, this is a deferral – so you will end up with a bigger bill at the end of the period.

Banking Lifeline

Banks have offered a lifeline to viable businesses to cover their wage bills for the next four weeks until the federal government’s JobKeeper Payments kick in. Speak to your bank about this.

Insurance Premium Relief

Suncorp, QBE Insurance and Alliance have announced businesses will be able to defer for six months the payment of insurance premiums which are due up to June 30. This will help small businesses to retain their existing insurance cover over premises that are unoccupied due to the pandemic.

New Code for Commercial Rent Relief

The National Cabinet has introduced a mandatory Code of Conduct for commercial tenancies.

It imposes a set of good-faith leasing principles on both landlords and tenants in relation to commercial leases – retail, office or industrial.

The Code is in effect for tenancies where the tenant is a small to medium-sized business (annual turnover of up to $50 million p.a.) and where the tenant is an eligible business for the federal Government’s JobKeeper program.

Bankers Support Rent Relief

The Code is supported by the Australian Banking Association and aims to share the burden fairly between the tenant and the landlord, while allowing them to design rent relief arrangements that suit the individual circumstances.

For more information on the Mandatory Code, click here.

For more information on the JobKeeper Payment, click here.

Residential Renters Eviction Moratorium

QCAT has made clear that Queensland renters have no protection from eviction for non-payment of rent, despite Annastacia Palaszczuk announcing she had agreed to an eviction moratorium at the National Cabinet meeting last week.

Queensland residential landlords and renters who have lost their income due to COVID19 have been left scrambling for advice. The problem is the Premier needs Parliament to amend legislation in order to introduce the national protection. She has suspended Parliament for six months.

In the meantime, some will be eligible for the Queensland COVID19 Rental Grant which is a one-off payment of $2,000 to cover up to four weeks rent. Read more here https://www.qld.gov.au/housing/renting/rent-assistance/bond-loan/covid19-rental-grant

 

Happy Easter Everybody

Despite all the uncertainties and restrictions, I hope everybody has a happy and safe Easter. Watch out for the Easter Dummies as well as the Easter Bunny!  As always, if it will help someone you know, feel free to share this information by forwarding the email.

If you wish to subscribe to this newsletter, email me at gregory@parliament.qld.gov

If You Need Help

If you need help or advice, please don’t hesitate to ring me 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 reply by return email.

Kindest Regards – and Happy Easter,

Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.

LINKS:

Federal Government and National Cabinet Measures www.australia.gov.au.

Federal Health Department – Corona Virus Information https://www.health.gov.au/

Queensland Government Public Health Directions https://www.health.qld.gov.au/system-governance/legislation/cho-public-health-directions-under-expanded-public-health-act-powers

Queensland Health Corona Virus Information https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19

Queensland Government Business Assistance www.business.qld.gov.au