Ava Keers with a butterfly at the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House. Photo: Leigh Jensen / Coffs Coast Advocate.
Ava Keers with a butterfly at the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House. Photo: Leigh Jensen / Coffs Coast Advocate.

Coronavirus ‘hotspot’ visitors descend on the coast

A COFFS Harbour tourism operator has expressed surprise at having to turn away a large number of visitors who have been in coronavirus hot spots.

Troy and Verne Saville, owners of the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House, revealed that last week they refused entry to more than 40 people who had visited coronavirus hotspots in the last 14 days.

As part of their Covid Safe plan, visitors to the popular tourist attraction are required to sign in and report whether they have been to one of the hotspots, which include parts of South Western Sydney and Melbourne.

On a post to a community Facebook group, Ms Saville revealed they had to turn away 12 people in one day alone.

Despite the disappointment seeing people miss out on the experience, Mr Saville remained steadfast in his commitment to playing a part in preventing the spread of the virus.

"We have an obligation to protect our staff, customers and the broader community and we can only do what we do and hope that everyone is doing their bit," he said.

"We all share the same thing - we all want this to be over."

The couple have a child with a compromised immune system and Mr Saville recognised some people were taking the health directives more seriously than others.

He was surprised at the number of people visiting from coronavirus hot spots and acknowledged he probably had a "stronger opinion" on allowing domestic travel from hotspots than the NSW Premier.

A butterfly at the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House.Photo: Leigh Jensen / Coffs Coast Advocate
A butterfly at the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House.Photo: Leigh Jensen / Coffs Coast Advocate

He said their job was to fulfil their obligations to staff and the community.

"It's not up to us to lecture anyone," he said.

"I am not a police officer or a member of the Department of Health, that's somebody elses job. My job is to raise butterflies.

"All we do is explain that unfortunately they won't be able to enter and are welcome to come back after they have been away from a covid hotspot for 14 days."

There are currently no domestic travel bans for residents who reside in hotspot locations across Sydney.

But the worsening coronavirus situation in metropolitan centres still poses existential problems for regional centres like Coffs Harbour who are reliant on tourism dollars to keep the local economy afloat.

Key stakeholders are trying to maintain a delicate balance between economic realities and preventing further outbreaks and it is hoped that close following of covid-safe guidelines will be enough to stave off a second wave.

Coffs Harbour City Council have been assisting local businesses to ensure they are covid safe through their Coffs Coast Business Care initiative, while simultaneously promoting the region as 'open for business'.

In Queensland however, the Premier Annastacia Palasczcuk has effectively declared the entire Greater Sydney region a coronavirus hotspot and banned them from entry into the state.

Not everyone on the Mid North Coast has been following the guidelines so closely, with NSW Police reporting today they had issued a Penalty Infringement Notice in Crescent Head.

As part of proactive compliance operations, officers from the Mid North Coast Police District attended a licensed premises on East Street, about 7.30pm last Friday.

Police spoke with the male licensee about their COVID-Safe Plan and issues raised during a previous inspection.

While conducting the walk-through, the officers noted that the premises was full, but only nine names were recorded on the register.

In addition, tables and chairs had not been removed to ensure physical distancing and it was not being observed. A 50-year-old man was subsequently issued a $1000 PIN.

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