‘Kick in the guts’: Tourism fears amidst police crackdown
Tourism leaders are praying the growing NSW coronavirus cluster can be contained to Sydney's Northern Beaches as Queensland police vow to ramp up random interceptions of travellers defying tough new restrictions.
With no move yet to reintroduce roadside border blockades, Gold Coast police will increase traffic stops on drivers suspected of travelling from the new hot spot in Sydney's north, which has so far seen 28 cases of the virus.
The southern surge has Queensland tourism operators on tenterhooks, with Tourism Whitsundays chief executive Tash Wheeler calling the outbreak a "kick in the guts" for an industry finally finding its feet after months of gloom.
"December-January was looking really strong, but if this situation spreads and greater Sydney is banned from travelling, we're looking at a $4m impact," she said.
"We were doing so well with bookings and people were getting the confidence to travel, so it's a huge kick in the guts."
She called for a more unified approach between the states and federal government, with different restrictions and health advice across the country.
"The health advice will be whatever the health advice is, but we need the states and the federal government working together," she said.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind called the growth of the Sydney cluster "devastating".
"It's a grave concern," he said. "We're trying to rebuild but confidence is very fragile. Hopefully the measures being put in place can contain the situation."
While no call has been made to reintroduce the border barricades that dominated entry points to Queensland for more than six months, Gold Coast Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said officers would be ready to respond at a moment's notice.
He also said interceptions of vehicles would increase in a bid to catch out any travellers ignoring the new travel advice, forcing any arrivals from the hot spot zones into mandatory quarantine.
"There is an element of honesty that we rely on, but certainly we will be increasing our vehicle intercepts and devoting an increasing number of resources to that around the border areas," he said.
"Anyone caught out runs the risk of not only being issued a $4003 fine, but also being turned around and sent packing."
Already travellers have been forced into quarantine after arriving in Queensland since the entire Northern Beaches area was declared a hot spot on Thursday night.
Destination Gold Coast chairman Paul Donovan said he was hopeful the cluster would be contained, leaving more than five million other Sydneysiders free to venture to Queensland over summer.
"(If it's contained) we will still do very well," he said.
"NSW is the gold standard in contact tracing so we've just got to have faith that they can get on top of this quickly."
Originally published as 'Kick in guts': Tourism fears, police promise crackdown