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With no infections in their town, bush pubs question why they can't reopen

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Parts of regional and rural Queensland want strict coronavirus controls relaxed because there have not been any cases, but the state’s Chief Health Officer says that is not going to happen just yet.

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Parts of regional and rural Queensland want strict coronavirus controls relaxed because there have not been any cases, but the state’s Chief Health Officer says that is not going to happen just yet.

Diamantina Shire Mayor Robbie Dare, who returned to the job after retiring from local government in 2012, called for pubs to reopen given there were no known cases of COVID-19 in some areas.

“We’re very lucky we’re isolated already just by the nature of being out here in the Outback and everyone out here has been doing the right thing,” Dare said.

“We all know we haven’t got it and yet our pubs have closed down the road.

“I think they look at our remote areas at least and think about letting them back in, because the same people are walking into the shop and filling their vehicles up.

“Why can’t they just walk into the hotel and have a beer? We haven’t got any strangers in town.”

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said opening up was under constant review.

“At this stage, we really need to continue all of our measures across the state, but that’s of course one of the things that we’ll possibly be looking at down the track,” Young said.

“We’re part of the national response and we’re following those protocols and that advice and that’s what we’ve put in place in Queensland.

“Now that we’ve seen a substantial reduction in cases, we can go and review all of those initiatives and work out which ones we might be able to adjust.”

National Cabinet, which is made up of the country’s first ministers, has been considering the criteria that would allow restrictions to be lifted, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday current rules would remain in place for at least four weeks.

‘It’s a time to see if this will work’

Owner of Longreach’s Birdcage Hotel, Gavin Ballard, said the coronavirus restrictions had taken a huge toll on his business, which had to lay off staff and was now only serving takeaway meals to survive.

“We’re certainly not going to see the tourists this year travelling through, so I think we’ll be trading to 95 per cent local people that are in an area that’s safe and COVID-free,” Ballard said.

“If everyone abides by the rules, why can’t we get the doors back open again in rural Queensland?

“As an exit strategy, as a starting point to get on top of this, it’s a time to see if this will work.”

But the restrictions were also taking a social toll on isolated communities.

“[The pub] is a place which is good for their mental health — they come in for a laugh and a chat — that’s been taken away from them too,” Ballard said.

“If it works here — it’s not to say it won’t work somewhere else — I think it’s a good starting point for everyone.”

– ABC / Francene Norton and staff

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