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Brisbane gets that country town feeling as crowds disperse

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The era of ‘social distancing’ slashed public transport patronage in south-east Queensland by around 10 per cent even before tougher restrictions were announced this week.

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TransLink figures show patronage on the region’s normally busy trains, buses, ferries and light rail was down seven per cent in the first week of March compared to the same period last year. That week started with 10 cases of COVID-19, all in the state’s south-east, whereas there are now 144 from the Gold Coast to Cairns.
In the second week of March, patronage was down nine per cent, as the threat of a pandemic was realised. Ferry patronage was down 14 per cent, the Gold Coast light rail down 13 per cent, and buses down 11 per cent, with trains the most resilient (seven per cent).
The decline in public transport patronage is likely to have been even greater this week, with large outdoor gatherings banned, employees avoiding workplaces, students avoiding universities, and some shops and facilities closing as a precaution. Timetables are also being overhauled, although faults were responsible for train delays today.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week said people avoiding the daily commute helped protect those still having to use public transport.
“It ensures social distancing practices are being followed in the workplace, but equally it is changing the strain and providing for greater social distancing on essential travel, particularly in public transport and things of that nature,” Morrison said.
This week, Federal Cabinet banned non-essential indoor gatherings of more that 100 people – public transport is among the exemptions – while travel restrictions will see a 60 per cent reduction in domestic flights.
The tourism, hospitality and retail sectors will be among the hardest hit by the 2020 trend of people staying home. This week brought the closure of several restaurants, including award-winning ARC Dining at Howard Smith Wharves and Corella at South Bank, as demand for a table plummeted.
Queensland’s event industry is on the brink of collapse with estimated losses from coronavirus cancellations topping $10 million.
With Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young given additional powers to separate and exclude people, there are fears public life may be further restricted. Clubs Queensland has urged members to consider and prepare for more severe restrictions, including the enforced shutdown of CBDs and business areas, and reduced or cancelled public transport.
“This will remove more patrons and critically many staff members ability to get to your venues,” the industry group warned.
“You need to plan accordingly.”
TransLink has been working with public transport operators to frequently clean, sanitise and disinfect buses, trains, ferries and light rail.
Young has urged people to keep a distance of 1.5m from each other – “we know that’s the risk if someone coughs or sneezes” – and keep washing their hands.
Health Minister Steven Miles said the overseas experience had shown that social distancing was one of the most effective tools available, limiting the spread of the coronavirus and the strain on the hospital system.
“Missing out on going to see the Broncos on Friday night – which I would have been doing – is worth it for the sake of the lives that will be saved,” Miles said.
Traffic reporters have also observed a reduction in cars and trucks on Brisbane roads.

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