Radical lockdown plan floated to protect regional Qld
CENTRAL Queensland has largely been spared from the infections by the global COVID-19 and one North Queensland politician wants to keep it that way by proposing a radical statewide quarantine plan.
NQ First Leader and Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan visited Rockhampton today to explain how he would like to curb the spread of coronavirus by seeing Queenland 'locked down' into at least nine stand alone quarantine 'regions' - Cape York, Far North Queensland, Townsville, Mackay-Whitsunday, Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Darling Downs, Outback and South-East - segregated by police, supported by military personnel.
"Central Queensland's southern boundary on the Bruce Highway would be the Kolan River, in keeping with existing local government boundaries, separating CQ from the neighbouring Wide Bay region," Mr Costigan said.
"To the north, quarantine points would be established at places such as Ogmore and in the west, at locations west of the Gemfields in the Central Highlands LGA adjacent to its western boundary with the Barcaldine LGA."
Mr Costigan said all regions would be based on current boundaries used by government officials including Queensland Treasury, with the exception being remote Cape York, which would be a region in its own right, separate from Far North Queensland.
"These regions are self explanatory and by calling in the Australian Defence Force to help police at road blocks all over the countryside, we could up the ante in combating the spread of this virus from China to all corners of Queensland, which, quite frankly, is a scary thought for so many people," he said.
"Clearly, we still want to bring in supplies to people in keeping with the arrangements already in place. We also want to help people in the event of a medical emergency and so forth but ultimately, it's about protecting not only the North but other regional and rural communities too including Central Queensland and small, isolated centres in the Outback.
"My region-by-region battle plan, which is exactly what it is, includes the retention of that dedicated zone for Cape York, encompassing Wujal Wujal, Cooktown and everything up to the Torres Strait and just have Far North Queensland comprise the local government areas of Cairns, Douglas, Cassowary Coast, Mareeba and Tablelands."
Mr Costigan said Yarrabah would be able to control its own shire borders, likewise Woorabinda in Central Queensland, Cherbourg in the South Burnett and any other indigenous communities.
"It's a simple plan that could potentially save the lives of Queenslanders," he said.
"Western Australia has taken a bold region-by-region approach to combat the spread of COVID-19, so why can't Queensland, the most decentralised State in the Federation, set the bar even higher? Why not? After all, more people are dying and regionally, we're getting more positive cases. It's a fact.
"We've already seen individual shires such as Burke and Carpentaria draw a line in the sand to protect their people but what is the Palaszczuk Labor Government doing to protect people in regional and rural Queensland? Yes, they've locked up the Cape but what about the rest of us living north of Gympie?"
Already in the midst of planning for a potential lockdown, Keppel MP Brittany Lauga was unimpressed by Mr Costigan's appearance in Rockhampton.
"Firstly, Mr Costigan's travel to Rockhampton concerns me. The Prime Minister has been clear: all non-essential travel should be cancelled. Mr Costigan represents an electorate over 600km from here, so how can he possibly justify his visit is for work purposes? Stay in your community, Mr Costigan," Ms Lauga said.
"Secondly, I started to facilitate the planning and logistics for our region to go into lock down over a week ago should it be needed. If Mr Costigan was serious about his idea, he should get in touch with the leaders of Rockhampton and the Capricorn Coast who have been investigating the logistics of this for some time.
"The clear advice from the Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young is there is no need for a local lockdown at this time. She's made it clear that people should only be leaving their homes for four reasons and that has put a border at the front of every single person's door."
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said she and her federal parliamentary colleagues sent a letter to Premier Annastcia Palaszczuk asking her to urgently consider closing Central and North Queensland from the rest of the state.
"While there is no North Queensland border, we suggested that it can be defined as it is under the Commonwealth Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Act which includes all local government areas that intersect with the Tropic of Capricorn and the Gladstone Regional Council area. We still have not received a response from her," Ms Landry said.
"As we have seen in Central Queensland, all cases of coronavirus so far have contracted it overseas and have travelled back home.
"While new measures in place have helped stem the tide of cases coming back home from overseas, there is still a huge risk of people within the state travelling to regional areas when it is not essential."
Ms Landry said regional areas might not have the medical equipment needed to combat coronavirus on hand at the moment to deal with an outbreak and people were understandably worried.
"I have had numerous phone calls and emails from concerned locals in Yeppoon and Rockhampton who are running into people from Brisbane who have travelled here to 'get away from it all'. These people should not be travelling at all," she said.
"The Premier needs to look at travel restrictions for non-essential travel into North and Central Queensland urgently."
Ms Lauga said there were only four reasons people should be leaving their homes:
• To buy essential supplies like food and medical supplies and access health care.
• To provide care to a vulnerable person.
• For exercise - people need to get out and need to get about and to exercise. But it can only be done with your immediate family or in your group of two.
• For work if you cannot work from home.