Should regional areas of Queensland be able to open before the city?
Should regional areas of Queensland be able to open before the city?

Petition to open south west pubs/cafes before cities

THERE has been a callout from business owners to allow regional Queensland areas to relax quarantine and isolation rules earlier then the rest of the state.

An E-petition was submitted to Queensland parliament on April 14 and raised the argument that the population density of regional Queensland poses a significantly lower threat than metropolitan centres like Brisbane and Gold Coast.

The petition stated that regional towns have much smaller economies and thus do not have the same capacity to recover financially as the large business centres in south east Queensland, and therefore should be allowed to have restrictions relaxed earlier.

It gathered 558 signatures before it closed on April 24.

The motion is wholeheartedly agreed with by Chairman of St George and district drought appeal and owner of O'Brien Toyota St George, Neal O'Brien who has witnessed first hand the devastation the closing of establishments has had on local businesses.

"Firstly we have to make sure it's a conscious measured decision advice by the health authorities, as they are more informed then we are," he said.

Mr O'Brien said while he is not suggesting they should open up the region to outside visitors, the fact that the south west has had zero cases proves reopening establishments to locals only would be a sensible move.

"My take is that when you go into a nightclub and show your ID, we should also do that with pubs where you show your drivers licence and if you're local, you're allowed in," he said.

"The butchers are open, and IGA, as well as the newsagent and bakery.

We're not far away from letting the pubs and cafes open anyway - it wouldn't be a major change.

"We're not asking to open the whole town, we are just asking for establishments to be open to locals."

Mr O'Brien said if pubs and cafes were to be reopened, social distancing rules should still be enforced, with regular policing of the establishments.

"We would like to move a little quicker then they have been in the south west and go back to the restrictions before everything had to close - by regulating the amount of patrons allowed inside by square kilometres,: he said.

"Our confidence is at an all time low. If people ask how you're going I tell why I'm busy but I'm only busy because I'm spending so much time trying to get people to do business with me.

"We're really struggling."

However, Southern Queensland Rural Health, Director Associate Professor Geoff Argus said taking the more conservative approach is what is in the best interest of the public.

"At the moment there are no cases in the south west, which is really positive but clearly the Queensland government has been taking a state wide approach," he said.

"From speaking to people in the south west, they are saying they want to see establishments opening up again for locals and they have an argument for that.

"But we're in uncharted territory so it's tricky to make those broad decisions.

Mr Argus said while residents have an argument for easing some restrictions in regional Queensland, there's the risk that people travelling through the region will bring the virus with them which will make for a very tricky situation for authorities.

"In my professional opinion, we really need to follow what health authorities have to say as well taking in views from the local community as well and how the local economy is being affected," he said.

"When weighing up the risks involved, it's smarter to take the conservative approach and follow the recommendations of health authorities."

Maranoa Regional Council mayor, Tyson Golder said following medical advice should remain the priority before getting worked up about opening up businesses.

"I just think we have to be careful, if we were to come out of this and then have to go back in, it would be devastating," he said.

"Everyone's very keen to get back to some form of normality, and we can operate fairly normally with social distancing.

"It would be a big move forward to have more normality but we have to listen to the best medical advice."

Cr Golder said while experts have predicted it won't be until September before establishments reopen, there have been promising signs it could be earlier.

"I don't want to give anyone false hope but its certainly looking a lot better than some of the predictions. However we haven't hit winter yet so those are the months where we have to be the most careful," he said.

"I don't think it hurts making state government aware that we would like to return to some sort some of normality because residents are getting pretty itchy.

"I think that's what the state government really have to think about, some of the tougher conditions were made because people weren't doing the right thing.

"We would like to make sure that everyone does the right thing, so we don't get punished."

Cr Golder said council has been getting daily updates from state government and making changes accordingly.

"Every week we learn more about virus which helps further protect our communities and this comes with advice as well," he said.

"We're certainly lucky to be living where we live. I think the rural areas of Queensland will be a big part of the economic recovery and the quicker we get back to more normality we can help the state.

"It's been devastating for some businesses, for the pubs and gyms with some businesses having to shut completely as it just wasn't financially viable for them to stay open."

Cr Golder said he has been impressed with how resilient the Maranoa businesses had been during the pandemic.

"It's crucial to get everyone through this time ad get them back on their feet. It won't be easy for businesses to come back once restrictions change and it's something that will take time," he said.

"If restrictions were to be relaxed, we would need to work together. If you go to the pub, be socially distant."

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