Virus spread among Coast residents sparks economic warning

 

GOLD COAST coronavirus cases have quickly doubled and it is now the state's hotspot for "community" transmission as Prime Minister Scott Morrison shuts the border to foreigners.

The Gold Coast was at 19 total cases - live or shaken off by carriers - on Tuesday but it has now jumped to 38.

Qantas and Jetstar stood down two-thirds of its staff yesterday Picture: Glenn Milne
Qantas and Jetstar stood down two-thirds of its staff yesterday Picture: Glenn Milne

In latest developments:

• Queensland's Chief Health Officer Janette Young said seven further cases were confirmed on Wednesday and 12 further Gold Coast cases were confirmed yesterday.

• Australia imposed a ban at the border on foreigners as of 8pm tonight to combat the spread. The border restrictions leave only Australian citizens, permanent residents and immediate family, including spouses, legal guardians and dependants able to enter with those arriving facing a mandatory 14 days of isolation.

• Qantas and Jetstar axed overseas flights and stood down two-thirds of their 30,000 staff.

• Destination Gold Coast CEO Annaliese Battista dubbed it an "existential crisis" for the city "because what do we do without tourism?".

In Queensland, cases jumped by 50 to 144.

An empty Movie World on the Gold Coast with people staying away because of the coronavirus outbreak. SUPPLIED
An empty Movie World on the Gold Coast with people staying away because of the coronavirus outbreak. SUPPLIED

Ms Young said the Gold Coast was the only region in Queensland to so far have confirmed community transmissions, meaning it had started passing between residents not just coming in from arrivals already positive.

"Brisbane and the Gold Coast are the main centres, and we are starting to see early evidence of some community transmission in the Gold Coast - which we have always expected because that is where the first cases were and they have had a number of clusters," she said, urging people back from overseas in the past 14 days with fever or respiratory symptoms to get tested.

An empty Pacific Fair Shopping Centre at midday yesterday. Photo: Tertius Pickard
An empty Pacific Fair Shopping Centre at midday yesterday. Photo: Tertius Pickard

On a national front, Professor Jodie McVernon, a key adviser to Mr Morrison, said travel restrictions and social distancing were key to controlling coronavirus - and added the bans were here to stay until at least October.

Australia has slowed the global pandemic via isolation and contact tracing yet whether the success holds is unclear and Ms McVernon said Australians may have to live with restrictions longer than other countries.

With case counts and deaths soaring in Europe, Australia has so far avoided a European style lockdown.

Annaliese Battista. Picture: Mike Batterham
Annaliese Battista. Picture: Mike Batterham

Ms Battista said the loss of overseas flights would cost the city more than $3.4 billion.

"This is not the Gold Coast tourism economy at risk, this is the entire economy. We need all levels of government to pull their finger out and provide maximum support to keep people in jobs," she said.

Ms Battista said 29 per cent of visitors arrived via flights but counted for 64 per cent of total spend.

"The tourism economy is on its knees and the border economy will suffer, so this is the Gold Coast's future at stake.

"The signs are screaming that this is the most serious crisis we have ever faced. It is an existential crisis, because what do we do without tourism?"

Tourism employs 42,000 Gold Coasters and directly feeds into 3500 businesses.

The winding back of flights as a direct result of the escalating coronavirus crisis has ­already cost the city billions.

Transport Workers Union (Qld branch) secretary Peter Biagini said Qantas and Jetstar workers at Gold Coast Airport were "facing down the barrel of some tough times".

"We do not support forcing workers to use leave entitlements to keep this company afloat without being compensated for it in the future, nor do we support leave without pay - it is imperative for the Government to step in and support these workers," he said.

Mr Biagini said Qantas and Jetstar staff had previously given up entitlements and pay to keep it afloat.

Theme park giant Village Roadshow "temporarily" shut Australian Outback Spectacular yesterday until March 31.

It came as the Clark Kirby-led company said it was asking all employees to take leave, slashing executive salaries and axing bonuses.

Mr Kirby said it was possible city's theme parks may also close and closing Outback until March 31 was in response to limits on 100-person crowds indoors.

He said the company was working on contingency plans for that eventuality if the rest of its parks closed.

Village stock plummeted a further 31 per cent to 85.5 cents, wiping another $169.8 million off its market capitalisation.

The company said the decision to close Australian Outback Spectacular until March 31 was in response to the Government announcement further restricting non-essential indoor gatherings to no more than 100 people.

- additional reporting by Sue Dunlevy

Originally published as Virus spread among Coast residents sparks economic warning


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