COVID-19 - The Gregory Waltz – April 3, 2020

As the pandemic develops, we have now reached the point where states are adopting different COVID19 rules to reflect their individual situations.

For instance, Western Australia has a complete closure of its border, even to returning residents. It has also put travel restrictions in place between different regions within the state.

It’s Not Just You

This makes it hard for national media to report and there was certainly confusion in Queensland yesterday, so here is another update to help you and your family.

Visiting Rules

As per my last letter, public gatherings – inside or outside, on public or private property – are limited to two people. The confusion has been around visitors to people’s homes. The Premier has said she will issue a clarification this morning that you can have two visitors to your home at the same time, but they must be either a close relative or close friend.

Stranger Danger

So, only two at a time, and no strangers. Family groups that live in the same household are still allowed to go outside together, to go for a walk, for instance.

What About the Kids?

Yes, you can take the kids with you if you are leaving the house for an essential errand, like buying food. However, if your partner is home to supervise them, leave them at home. It is not helpful for whole families to be out shopping together.

It’s Not a Picnic

The two person rule means you can’t host gatherings at your home with more than two visitors plus your household. You can’t host them in the park or elsewhere, either. It means no BBQs, parties or picnics. No playgroups or club meetings face-to-face.

Travel restrictions

All Queenslanders must abide by the rule against non-essential travel within the state. We do have some hotspots in Cairns, Toowoomba and the south-east corner. We have no cases on the Central Highlands or in Western Queensland, as yet. We want to keep it that way.

Staying Here for Easter

This even applies to our teachers on western postings. Many of these young people may have been planning to travel to their hometowns for the Easter School Holidays. The non-essential travel ban means they shouldn’t. If we have to follow Western Australia, they may find they can’t come back. In short, none of us should be travelling away for Easter this year.

Playing Games

The Minister’s office told me yesterday that the Director General of Education had reminded staff of the restriction on Tuesday. In direct contradiction of this - and dated the same day - the Chief Health Officer’s website expressly says they can. It is in point (f) of the Home Confinement, Movement and Gathering Direction: “education and early childhood workers may travel to and from their home centre over the term 1 break.

This shows utter disregard for Queensland’s country populations.

Border Closures

Previously, non-residents crossing the Queensland border were being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. From 6 AM today, they will be turned back. They will not be allowed to enter at all. This is true for roads and airports. In both cases, the return travel will be at the personal expense of the traveller.

Border Closures Extended to FIFO Mine Workers

All resources projects in Queensland must provide Queensland Health with a COVID19 Plan for their interstate workers. Only a limited number of workers in critical positions have been granted entry passes to continue to cross the border.

We are already seeing many FIFOs relocate into our mining towns for the duration.

It is vital that we keep our mining industry operating. We cannot morally deny energy supplies to countries who are also in crisis. If we do, we will have no customers left when this is over.

Protecting Our Mining Industry

COVID19 hygiene pre-cautions are in place at all mining camps and for mining transport arrangements.

While the changes do not yet affect FIFO, DIDO or BIBO workers travelling within Queensland for work, all mining companies have been requested to prepare plans for these intrastate workers.

No Evictions

The National Cabinet has put a ban on all evictions of residential renters by landlords. This is in all states and territories. More details are to come, but renters whose income has been affected by the COVID19 restrictions are being encouraged to talk to their landlords about short-term agreements.

Drought Assistance Applications Extended

Queensland primary producers will have extra time to lodge drought assistance claims due to COVID19 restrictions. The best way to do this is electronically. You will need to scan your claim together with any relevant Tax Invoices, attach it to an email and send to droughtdeclarations@daf.qld.gov.au. This will make it easier for the Department to process, as many of their workers are now working from home.

Sapphire and Springsure Dental Service

QCOAL and RFDS have had to suspend their scheduled dental clinics in Sapphire and Springsure. This has been forced on them by COVID19 regulations. They hope to resume as soon as possible and I will keep you updated.

BreastScreen Queensland

Similarly, the mobile BreastScreen Queensland service has had to be suspended. Women are being asked to keep up their home self-examinations and report any anomaly to their GP.

Firearms and Ammunitions Bans

Last week the Queensland Government banned licensed armorers and firearms dealers from operating in a blanket lockdown that the LNP has worked hard to reverse. The ban arose from fears of an increase in gun violence under COVID19 conditions.

However, it ignored many occupations who require firearms and ammunition in the course of their daily business. As with mining, we need agribusinesses to stay in operation.

Who is Exempt?

On Tuesday this week, the minister exempted some occupations from the bans. The exemptions are supposed to cover primary producers, commercial pest controllers, feral animal controllers, vets, commercial macropod harvesters and others.

I say “supposed to” because the exemptions turn out not to be based on occupations. People are still being turned away depending on their type of license. The following Queensland Firearms licenses are exempt from the ban: PPA, PP2, PP3, PP4, PP5, PP6, PPH, FCA, FC2, FA3, FA4, FA5, FA6 and FAH.

Other licenses, like the OC2 and recreational license holders, like sporting shooters, are not exempt and still can’t purchase either firearms or ammunition.

The LNP is continuing to work hard to have a further review and I will keep you updated.

Maintaining Essential Services

We still need to be able to fill our car with fuel, buy food, medicines and a whole range of essential goods and services. (When you need a plumber or a sparkie, you always really need them.) We need those truck drivers to keep on trucking and those warehouse workers to keep picking and packing.

We especially need all our healthcare workers - be they doctors, nurses, specialists, GPs, pharmacists or receptionists.

There are many, many jobs that are essential as we get through this.

What About Their Kids?

Schools in NSW and Victoria have closed. Queensland may follow suit. Thousands of people are now working from home. Budgets are tight.

As a result, many parents have withdrawn their children from childcare. Many childcare centres were at risk of failing when they are needed most by essential workers.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, the Federal Government has announced the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package. It will give families fee relief while supporting childcare services to keep their doors open and employees in their jobs. Read more.

How Long Will This Go On For?
It depends.

I know how annoying that answer is, so let me break it down a bit.

In my opinion, the international travel ban will be in force for quite some time. I don’t expect to see it lifted until the pandemic passes worldwide.

In Australia, the situation is different. We have to focus on what is happening in our own country.

If we can decrease the caseload to a level that we can manage in terms of testing and treatment and if we have stopped community transmission – when the virus is spreading among the general population - then we can expect to see some of the restrictions lifted.

The better we maintain the restrictions, the sooner this will happen. It really is up to each of us.

Are We Making Progress?

Something like seventy per cent of our cases are from international travel. We are doing much better than many other countries. We are not the US. We are not Italy.

Our National Cabinet is working well under the PM’s calm leadership.

There are encouraging signs.

Definitely, Absolutely, Making Progress

Our infection rates are stabilising, so we are flattening the curve. Better still, our governments have used the time this has bought us.

It has been invaluable. It has allowed us to reinforce our health systems. It has allowed us to ask our manufacturers to re-tool to help in the fight by producing much-needed medical supplies that have become difficult to source from overseas.

Unhappily, we do have pockets of community transmission and we do still have hotspots. We need to be acting as if the virus is amongst us.

We have no cure and no vaccine. The only prevention we have is hygiene: washing our hands and staying out of each other’s “splash zones”.

Do the Gregory Waltz!

As the Chief Medical officer told a reporter the other day, “It is an infectious virus, but it is not a long-jumper.” So, please follow the social distancing rules. I call it the “Gregory Waltz”. When you go to talk to someone, first take one big step back and then a step to the side for good measure.

Useful Links
Thank you for reading this and staying up to date. I have embedded some useful links below. It is important we get our information from trusted source – and I am trying to supply that.

Feel Free to Share

If you wish to share this information, please feel free to simply forward this email. If you have received this letter from a friend and want to subscribe, email me at gregory@parliament.qld.gov.au or visit lachlanmillarmp.com.

If You Need Help

As always, if you have a comment or an issue to raise, you can simply contact me by return email. 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 best for you. (Emerald Office PH 07 4913 1000; Longreach office PH 07 4521 5700.)

We will get through this. These changes are not permanent.

Kindest Regards – and keep safe,

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 

Federal Government JobKeeper Payments https://www.ato.gov.au/general/gen/JobKeeper-payment/?=redirected_JobKeeper