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Media Release - Call to Relax North Queensland Travel Restrictions

29th May 2020

COVID-19 has placed us in very difficult times.  Initial concerns were that of the health and safety of all people, given the health warnings of the potential terminal effects the virus could cause, particularly in the elderly, and the rapid nature of spread of the virus in a community.

Mayor Ramon Jayo said “Thankfully our community has avoided the illness by observing and abiding by the strict isolation, distancing and hygiene strategies promoted by our health authorities.  In fact our wider North Queensland region has similarly fared well because of this approach.”

“Our overall vigilance has however come at a significant cost to many businesses in our district.  Most economic harm has been felt by businesses that were forced to close, followed by the businesses suffering diminution in trade by restrictions put in place against travel and socialisation of non-essential nature.”

“Whilst Council acknowledge that such restrictive practices have served us well in ensuring the health of our community, it is time for the economy to be addressed and to look at ways to return to business and trading to ensure the survival of our valued business community.” said Cr Jayo.

The Premier has introduced a road map to recovery and whilst Council agree with the Premier’s direction on a slow and steady return, we also agree with industry leaders that progress may be too slow for our region.

Council agrees with industry that our region should be considered differently to the southern areas where community transmission is still occurring, and that there is no reason why our North Queensland region, which has been essentially COVID-19 free, should not be treated similarly as the remoter western areas of Queensland.

On that basis, Council has agreed to petition the Premier seeking relaxation to non-essential travel criteria from Mackay north and west to Queensland State boundaries.

The decision to relax restrictions is not Council’s to make, but we do support the Premier on a decision within those parameters at this stage.

“We accept that such decision will cause some concern amongst our community and we can assure that it has not been taken lightly.  What must be considered is that there will always now be a risk into the future until a vaccine is found, and also beyond.  It is not expected that a vaccine will be available for at least another year.” said Cr Jayo

“We must therefore accept some risk and proceed forward cautiously as is proposed.  It will remain essential that we continue observing the protocols that have served us well to the present, the social distancing, the good and proper hygiene and most importantly staying home from work or any form of socialisation if you are sick or have any symptoms whatsoever,” said Cr Jayo.

As an additional safety precaution, the Hinchinbrook Local Disaster Management Group has been working closely with health authorities to roll out a more expansive community COVID-19 testing regime. An announcement will be made in that regard shortly.

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