Beleaguered Queensland tourism operators have described greater Brisbane’s snap lockdown as a “kick in the teeth”, as the coronavirus circuit breaker wipes out much-needed Easter holiday bookings.
Millions across the five local government areas that encompass greater Brisbane woke to a ghost town as strict stay-at-home restrictions remain, at least until Thursday night.
School students, hospitality workers and guests at weddings and funerals have also been left in the lurch by the strict new measures, which were imposed on Monday afternoon.
The lockdown is the latest blow for the state’s tourism industry, after JobKeeper payments were cut off on Sunday.
‘Timing couldn’t be worse’
Cairns Adventure Group director Roderic Rees said he had already been swamped by booking cancellations for the busy Easter season.
“We understand that it’s a health crisis first and that’s got to be dealt with, but the timing of it couldn’t be worse,” he said.
“The phone’s been ringing hot since the announcement … we had one point where we had all our lines on the go, all doing cancellations simultaneously.
“It’s a real kick in the teeth to us up here.”
Other states and territories have been quick to impose travel restrictions on Queensland, and Mr Rees said he feared the long-term implications of another lockdown.
“I think it’s going to knock the confidence out of the southern states – NSW and Victoria,” he said.
“Are they going to want to travel to Queensland? Who knows.”
Ken Illich, who runs the Brisbane Holiday Village, said more than $20,000 worth of accommodation bookings had been wiped out within a matter of hours.
“It’s very sad because it was the first time this year, in the past 12 months, that things were looking OK,” Mr Illich said.
“People are just uncertain, they’re scared, especially when they’re interstate and they don’t know if they’re going to have to quarantine when they go home.
“Christmas and Easter are the big two periods for the tourism industry – we need it.”
Highlight of senior year postponed
Schools across greater Brisbane have also closed, with students instructed to learn from home for the last few days of term before the Easter break.
Year 12 students at John Paul College in Logan were due to celebrate their school formal on Tuesday night but the festivities have been called off until June.
“We were in an exam, so we didn’t find out until a few hours after and we almost didn’t believe it at first,” college captain Jessica Gaskell said.
“It’s one of the highlights of our grade 12 year and I think we’d all been looking forward to it.
“Everybody’s quite disappointed but we understand that it is for the best and obviously this is what they’re doing to prevent a major outbreak.”
College principal Karen Spiller said some exams and the school’s large performance night had also been postponed.
“We’re all prepared and know that this can happen at any given time, and while it’s really disappointing, we do everything we can to assure the students that we will reschedule these really important events,” Ms Spiller said.
‘Safer is better than sorry’
The new restrictions mean weddings are capped at 10 people, while funerals can have a maximum of 20 mourners.
Funeral company director Alex Gow said he had 14 services planned over the next three days, which some loved ones would no longer be able to attend.
“[The families] understand we’re in this terrible situation,” Mr Gow said.
“Most of them are going ahead, some have chosen to postpone after Easter.”
Hospitality venues have also been feeling the pain.
The Australian Hotels Association has called on the federal government to provide targeted temporary financial support to affected businesses.
Roberto Semeraro from Brisbane cafe La Dolce Vita said he was “shocked” by the snap lockdown, which has forced the business to slash staff hours.
“The consequence is losing money – trying to find money for the rent, expenses like electricity,” Mr Semeraro said.
“[I’m] feeling sorry for some of the part-time people that work here because … now that JobKeeper has finished it’s going to be hard for them.
Jean Tsai, who works at Phuket Kitchen Thai Restaurant in Albany Creek, said she supported the lockdown, despite not being able to welcome diners for the next three days.
“I guess takeaway or delivery will be better, because I think safer is better than sorry,” Ms Tsai said.