Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson. Picture: Melanie Whiting
Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson. Picture: Melanie Whiting

Blanket restrictions stifling economy amid calls to re-open

REGIONAL centres such as Mackay should not be subjected to blanket Covid-19 restrictions designed to combat southern disease hot spots when they have proven abilities to combat outbreaks.

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said the “one size fits all” approach to tackling coronavirus in Queensland no longer worked when areas between Gladstone and Townsville, and out west, had no community transmission and detailed plans in place to respond to the disease.

And pubs and clubs in those areas should be allowed to reopen if management could prove they could provide safe and hygienic venues for their members, he said.

“It applied first of all, sure, but now there needs to be a fresh look at this,” he said.

Cr Williamson said Mackay, Isaac and the Whitsundays met a three-fold criteria including an ability to contact trace any confirmed cases.

He said the MHHS had proven it could contact trace cases and the region was able to test any residents suffering respiratory illnesses.

“The third requirement is we have to have a rapid response plan in place,” he said.

Cr Williamson said the district and local disaster management groups had been working with the MHHS on the plan that “quickly moves to shut down any outbreak of the disease”.

“In the Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday region, our mayors are of the same sort of feeling that providing protocols are in place, providing we can manage those protocols – and we believe we can – we have to do something,” he said.

“In the Whitsundays, (restrictions) have devastated some businesses and those tourism businesses need to open again within the social restrictions we have in place.

“The greatest detriment I can see is a lot of these rules and restrictions are in place for major urban centres.

“We cannot stand by and watch our economy go down the gurgler.”

The heads of Mackay’s two largest clubs – Harrup Park and Magpies – backed the call and that from Clubs Queensland that on Thursday mounted a renewed campaign to allow them to re-open.

Clubs Queensland acting CEO Dan Nipperess said the state’s community clubs should be treated the same as restaurants and cafes, which have been mooted to re-open for customers in June in a first step for the hospitality industry.

Harrup Park CEO Matt Cielens said community clubs were equipped to track member access to venues, which was in line with requirements.

“Clubs are bigger venues with larger space and therefore those social distancing concerns that might exist in smaller establishments aren’t that relevant to clubs,” he said.

“Clubs are very well positioned for the first phase of reopening.”

Magpies general manager Darren Smith echoed the sentiment, adding members had been in contact and told him they were missing the social element to the club being open.

“Clubs also have a large membership base of elderly members too so it’s a consideration we definitely take into account,” he said.

A decision is expected on Friday when National Cabinet meets next.