Regional MP urges travellers to stay home
Nationals MP Vince Catania has called on the state government to urgently launch a campaign to tell tourists to stop travelling to the regions immediately and for visitors already there to go home, with vulnerable communities and agricultural industries at high risk because of a lack of capacity in regional healthcare.
The Shire of Exmouth has also launched a social media campaign this week telling travellers to stay home, saying that holiday bookings continued to outweigh cancellations.
Mr Catania told Business News that backpackers and other foreign tourists were continuing to arrive in Exmouth, Coral Bay, the Ningaloo Coast, Carnarvon and Shark Bay each day.
“It seems they are the hotspots where people think they can go on the beach and isolate themselves,” Mr Catania said.
“We are getting quite a few international tourists who have come into the country, haven’t self-quarantined at all and are driving around.
“That’s a big concern; we have a very large elderly population in the north-west, we have got a large Aboriginal population in the north-west and we have quite a few vulnerable people in the north-west.”
He said the health system in the north-west in particular was not equipped to handle an outbreak.
“We have got a situation in Coral Bay where there is only a nursing post,” Mr Catania said.
“Exmouth has a small hospital. We don’t have the ventilators needed for even one case because the hospital would be shut down.
“That’s why you have to put measures in place to stop people from travelling, close the roads and allow essential travel only, non-essential travel needs to stop.”
Mr Catania said agricultural operations, including several that supply a large proportion of Perth’s vegetable supply, would also be severely impacted in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak in the north-west.
“We have got places like Carnarvon, which is a food bowl, that supply 30 per cent of Perth’s winter vegetables,” he said.
“We need to protect that industry. There is no work here at the moment for backpackers, they are seemingly coming here to try and get work, and we need to keep people away to be able to protect our agricultural sector, our community, and ensure that we can get through this.
"Unfortunately tourism businesses are already struggling and closing up, so there is actually nothing to do when it comes to going to places in the north-west.
"You can’t go to a pub, you can’t go to a cafe and tourism businesses are closing up, whether they can’t afford to continue operating, or to play their role in ensuring that they are sending that message of ‘stay at home’."
The Shire of Exmouth’s social media campaign urged travellers to leave the region, and for any Perth residents to put aside aspirations of heading north until the crisis passes.
“If you are still thinking of hooking up the caravan, and heading to our region to 'ride this out', we ask with all sincerity - please don’t,” the shire said.
“Our supermarket is not coping due to warehouse shortages and rationing, and our community relies heavily on our local IGA’s ability to source enough grocery supplies to sustain our very small population.
“We do not have the luxury of going to the next suburb if our local supermarket is low on stock. Our closest suburb is 360 kilometres away.
“We absolutely understand the devastating blow this is to the resorts, caravan parks and holiday homes within our town, and are hoping that they, as an integral part of our community will support councils position, accept cancellations, reject new bookings and work with affected travellers by refunding or rescheduling holiday plans.”