Perth lockdown hits business bottom lines in the Mid West

Lisa Favazzo, Liam Beatty & Kate CampbellMidwest Times
A police officers stops a vehicle at 12.24am.
Camera IconA police officers stops a vehicle at 12.24am. Credit: Daniel Campbell

Worried local tourism operators are saying “here we go again” as cancellations come in, while a Mid West doctor is calling for vaccine urgency after a new contagious strain of COVID-19 sent Perth and Peel into a four-day lockdown.

Geraldton GP Ian Taylor is warning the regions and the relatively normal way of life enjoyed in country WA are not immune to a virus outbreak.

He is urging everyone over 40 to book their jabs and not wait for the Pfizer vaccine, saying: “We are fighting a war and we have to use the weapons we’ve got.

“The risk now of contracting this virus has suddenly increased dramatically and I fear it is only a matter of time before it comes to the regions,” he said.

“The risk benefit for AstraZeneca has just changed overnight ... it is a good, safe and effective vaccine.”

In the Mid West and Gascoyne, 11,815 people have had their first dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab. About 2500 people have had both doses.

Tourism providers in the region are already seeing numbers fall ahead of their busy school-holiday period, with Geraldton’s Ocean Centre Hotel general manager Tash Gibson saying 20 bookings were already cancelled and she was having to cut staff hours.

When she first heard the news Perth and Peel were in lockdown until at least Saturday after cases of the Delta variant emerged in Perth’s northern suburbs after a woman returned from Sydney, her first thought was for her staff.

“We have a great team and I feel for them. Our house cleaners’ (hours) would be halved,” she said. Ms Gibson hopes the State “bounces back”, saying not knowing what would happen was the “scariest” thing.

In cyclone-hit Kalbarri, the new round of lockdown and restrictions, just before the July school holidays, is salt in the wound in an already challenging year.

“Since Seroja, everyone has been looking forward to the holidays to help steady up cash flow in the town,” Finlay’s Kalbarri owner Melissa Finlay said yesterday. “(Business) only started to pick up in the last two weeks, with visitors from over east and Perth coming to support us.

“Given it was only announced last night, we’ve only had one man get in early and cancel.

“I expect over the coming days, we’ll lose a lot of bookings.

“We’re just holding on for the ride — this year has really been a rollercoaster.”

Mid West Gascoyne Police Supt Roger Beer said metropolitan officers were manning checkpoints along major routes in and out of Perth, including Indian Ocean Drive and Brand Highway, but his officers locally would be stepping up traffic patrols as well as checks on airport passengers.

“Particularly in the southern part of the district, just to keep a check on their bona fides and that they have a proper reason to be travelling,” he said.

He encouraged everyone who has returned to the Mid West and Gascoyne from Perth and Peel, before the lockdown but after new restrictions came into place on Sunday, to follow the rules, including wearing masks in public.

“We are taking a compliance with compassion stance — we are not looking at prosecuting people at every opportunity. It’s more about education in the first instance, but there are also people who do blatantly disregard the rules,” Supt Beer said.

Before the latest COVID-19 setback, accommodation providers in Gascoyne tourism hotspots such as Exmouth and Shark Bay said they were booked out months in advance, some even until the end of the year. They had been gearing up for a bumper school-holiday period, expecting a “mad rush” of visitors with accommodation sold out.

In Shark Bay, Monkey Mia dolphin experience reserve manager Amy Trezona yesterday said: “As far as I know, everything is running as usual, and with the COVID-19 safe check-in ... the only thing that might change is social distancing.”

She said there was limited accommodation in Monkey Mia and fewer visitors from down south would give people from up north a chance to stay in the park.

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