Rural doctors say tourists who need intensive care may find themselves “stuck a long way from family”. (Supplied: Tourism & Events Queensland. )
Tourists are being urged to stay way from the outback this winter as communities fear health services will struggle to cope with an outbreak of COVID-19.
- Concerns a lack of intensive care beds will put pressure on flying doctors in the event of an outbreak
- One traveller says he’s turned back for Brisbane although he feels safer in the country
- Attractions are turning away tourists, telling them to ‘plan holidays for another year’
No cases have been recorded in western Queensland but a lack of beds in intensive care units has rural doctors concerned that air services will not be able to deal with the demand for transfers to the east coast.
And as states and territories can apply their own restrictions, including closing their state borders, holiday towns across the country have issued a clear message — think long and hard before visiting.
Easter normally marks the unofficial launch of tourist season in western Queensland but a handful of grey nomads are already on the road and having to make contingency plans.
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Graham McGeady, who has been travelling for the past five months, is headed from Mount Isa to his home in Brisbane to be with family.
“We’re being responsible, we’re trying to keep our distances and all those type of things,” Mr McGeady said.
“I’m a little bit apprehensive, considering there’s so many cases being reported. I think I’m safer out in the country.”
Pressure on flying doctors
Few hospitals in the area have intensive care beds and doctors fear it could put undue pressure on air services to fly patients to the major centres.
Rural doctors fear an outbreak of COVID-19 could overload the Royal Flying Doctor Service with transfers to the major centres. (Supplied: RFDS)
Rural Doctors’ Association of Queensland president Clare Walker said patients who required intensive care would likely need to use the Royal Flying Doctor Service to transfer to the east coast.
“They may not be at the top of the list and it may be that they are stuck in a town a long way from their family,” Dr Walker said.
“They may even need to be palliated and they might die in a place that is far from where they live.”
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Dr Walker said she noticed some tourists were already in her home town of Longreach and advised them to go home.
“I really understand that the tourist operators are really going to suffer through these whole next few months,” she said.
“We just can’t have tourists from out of town travelling through our area.
“As much as we love it out here and we really want to invite everyone back next year, we just can’t have tourists.”
Attractions turning visitors away
Attractions in the outback are beginning to close, including Adels Grove in north-west Queensland, which borders Lawn Hill National Park.
Popular Adels Grove in north-west Queensland has been shut to tourists. (Supplied: Adels Grove)
Director Alan Mathieson said a local-council ban on non-essential visitors and Federal Government restrictions on gatherings of more than 500 people forced the company’s hand.
“It was the right thing to do. It’s all about ensuring the gulf community and the Burke Shire are protected,” Mr Mathieson said.
“If we do have anybody that turns up at Adels, we’ll be basically turning them away and sending them back out of the shire.”
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Mr Mathieson said with tour groups booking in years in advance the company was still busy fielding enquiries and cancelling bookings.
He said the company had plans to keep operating in the area when the threat of COVID-19 eased.
“The shire up there is basically in lock-down and (tourists) shouldn’t be in that area,” he said.
“You can plan holidays for another year. The attraction is not going to go away.”