The good news is that, once again, Queensland had no new cases of COVID19 yesterday. This made it the fourth day of zero new cases in Queensland.
The number of active cases had dropped to 84. Eleven people remain in hospital with COVID19. Six of those patients are in Intensive Care.
The Premier has announced an easing of the restrictions on recreational travel in recognition of the strain being experienced by people in complying with the COVID19 rules.
A New Day Dawns
From midnight tonight, Queenslanders will be able to travel up to 50 kilometres from home for recreational purposes and non-essential shopping. In addition, Sunwater is reopening its dams for recreational users and some national parks are re-opening for bush walks and picnics. Camping is still not allowed. You can check which parks are open here https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/covid-19/.
It’s Not Party Time Yet
You must be alone, or only in the company of members of your household or with one other person. People living in single households can only join with one other person.
You must practise social distancing: 1.5 metres distance between individuals.
In shops, people must abide by the one person per four square metre rule. Retailers should calculate how many people their store can accommodate and watch the head count. When you are in the store, you must keep up the 1.5 metre social distance rule – even with the sales assistants.
All Other Restrictions Still Apply
Nothing else has changed and we must all continue to abide by the social distancing, public gathering and non-essential travel restrictions we have become so familiar with. So, keep doing that Gregory Waltz when you stop to chat: a big step back and a step to the side as well.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer often. Three’s a crowd: no gatherings of more than two people who don’t live in the same household. Weddings are restricted to five and funerals to ten.
Fifty Klicks Gets Me Nowhere
For many people in Gregory, the 50 kilometre distance won’t even get them to their nearest town. Remember, you are allowed to travel a greater distance for essential tasks such as purchasing groceries, medicines and supplies, medical appointments, work, education or to give care and support to another person.
The fifty kilometre rule applies only to recreational travel. You can read the ruling and the frequently-asked questions here https://www.health.qld.gov.au/system-governance/legislation/cho-public-health-directions-under-expanded-public-health-act-powers/home-confinement-movement-gathering-direction/help
Learners Back on the Road
The 50 kilometre rule will also be applied to learner drivers. They can undertake driving practice up to fifty kilometres from home, supervised by a licensed driver.
This is a Test Run
If you are planning to enjoy some recreational travel or shopping, I plead with you to practise social distancing. This easing is by way of a “test run” and no-one in Queensland wants it to backfire.
Can We have More Than 50 Ks?
The LNP has raised the need to consider a bigger recreational distance allowance for rural Queenslanders. The Premier has not responded as yet. The issue seems to be that she doesn’t want to go down a path of dealing differently with different regions.
This is a shame because the Racing Queensland plan, which divides Queensland into regions, has allowed that industry to continue to operate with prize money flowing through to trainers, jockeys and stables.
Two Incubation Periods or 28 Days
There has been much discussion in Townsville about whether they can have restrictions lifted. People had been pinning their hopes on Townsville having zero cases for 28 days. Townsville has gone 22 days with zero cases.
This morning’s Townsville Bulletin shows that hope to have been false. A local Labor MP has clarified that after 28 days clear, a “conversation” about re-opening can start, not an actual re-opening.
Which Begs the Question for the West
I am so proud that Gregory has had zero cases, not a single one, ever. So, if “conversations” about easing restrictions are being held, then surely we deserve some special consideration.
Let me be very clear. I don’t want to do anything that may bring us a single COVID19 case. Our limited health infrastructure would make this perilous.
But with 42 rural and remote local government areas completely free of corona virus, surely, locals could be allowed to do business with locals.
Locals Serving Locals
In Gregory, it is our small businesses that keep our towns and communities viable. From tradies and mechanics to shops and pubs, it is small business that keeps us functioning and maintains our standard of living.
Eight years of drought has seen the economic mainstay of agriculture pretty well shut down. Somehow, our small businesses have struggled through.
They Can’t Take Much More
I worry that the COVID19 restrictions will be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” for many of Gregory’s small business.
The LNP has been pleading for a proper small business relief package, along the same lines offered by the other states to their small businesses. Nothing has been forthcoming. Job support loans were supposed to be available until September, but these have now been closed prematurely when the money ran out.
But you know what the best relief package would be? Getting back to business.
Businesses Need a Plan …with a Timetable
What is needed is a plan for managing business in a time of COVID19. That will also mean managing schools because they are essential to surviving well.
The way I look at the situation is that we have completed the first stage of the pandemic - suppressing the infection rate so our health system can cope.
The next stage must recognise that we could be living in a pandemic for quite some time. It will be at least 12 to 24 months before a vaccine is developed and produced in sufficient quantities to end the pandemic.
We need a clear, concise, public plan with a timeline.
We Must Plan to Manage Around It
We can’t be shut down for two years or longer. Every week of shut down is a body blow to our economic life.
We must face up to the problem and, taking the best health advice, work out how we can continue to do business in spite of the necessary restrictions. It can be done. The NT is doing it and South Australia is hot on its heels.
Small Local Steps First Make Sense
“Locals serving locals” is a logical first step in Queensland’s COVID19-free shires. We’ve all been in an involuntary quarantine for over 40 days. In that entire time, we have had no cases. So, if we keep up our social distancing, we should be able to go about our business and our lives within our shires.
It is a Two Way Street
We can’t keep asking Australians to make the sacrifices we need while treating them like children. We shouldn’t have to feel like little johnnie in the back seat asking, “Are we there yet?”
Australians have shown that if you tell us why you need us to do something, we will rise to the job magnificently. And we will see it through to the end.
We are a practical people and we want to know, sector by sector, how each will be managed until we get a vaccine.
At the moment, the Premier won’t even reveal if the planning has started.
Sustaining Tourism in Outback Queensland
Throughout the drought, tourism has been the economic sector that has helped to sustain our local economies. We have had to surrender the 2020 winter season on very little notice. The sacrifice was willingly given, but the cost has been cruel.
It has taken years to build up our tourism infrastructure to the point that last year we had over one million visitors. Most of that “infrastructure” consists of small businesses. I am very concerned that they all make it to the other side of corona.
If we don’t start planning now for how we can host self-drive tourists and grey nomads in a time of pandemic, then we could lose the 2021 season and lose the game.
Show Us the Hurdles and We’ll Start Training
Business is saying show us what we have to do and we will start adapting. But we need to know the game plan and the timetable.
One way we can all help is by downloading the federal government’s phone app. It guarantees that we can stop a second wave by quickly responding at the start of any local outbreak.
It will make it that much safer for Australians to live and work in a time of pandemic. 15 million of us have Facebook. In contrast to Facebook, the data in your app will automatically delete after 21 days. Please consider helping your country by downloading it.
Queensland Land Rent Waiver
In good news for some tourism operators, pastoral lessees and community sporting clubs leasing crown land, the state government is waiving the state land rent charges for six months. This will apply from April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020. Put simply, you won’t have to pay it for six months.
You don’t have to apply; it will be automatically extended to you. If you have already paid the rent to June 30, it will automatically be refunded. You can call 13 74 68 to find out more.
The Australian and Queensland government this week announced joint-funding for works on a number of highways, including the Springsure Tambo Road. This corridor is a key “missing link” in Central Queensland’s road network and will be welcomed by the beef and tourism sectors alike.
A special shout-out to the former member for Gregory, Vaughan Johnson. Vaughan argued for this funding for many years before handing the baton to me. I know he’ll be just as pleased to see this funding announcement as I am.
As always, 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 sources – and I am trying to supply that.
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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. Australia is making good progress.
Kindest Regards – and keep safe,
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.
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