Qld ‘lucky’ haven for COVID refugees as business grits teeth
WHEN the second wave of COVID-19 hit Melbourne couple Alejandra Diaz and Hugo Khlat headed north, and just kept going.
Now, when the NSW-Queensland border slams shut on Saturday, the pair will be on "the good side of the country".
"We were living in Melbourne for five years," Ms Diaz, 30, said.
"But with the coronavirus craziness we moved to NSW after the first lockdown.
"Things started getting serious so we drove north and now we are in Cairns."
Ms Diaz has found work and the pair - possibly Cairns' first COVID refugees - are happy in their Far Northern exile.
"This is home for the next few months," she said. "We are lucky to be on the good side of the country."
In the tourism and hospitality industries, however, operators are gritting their teeth in expectation of the negative impact of the border closures.
The valuable trade from the state's south, however, has been a consolation for the Victorian tourists that would usually head to the Far North during the peak season.
Charter fishing operator Nick Kelly said he was surviving on a strong Queensland following.
"It's not good news. We are all in the same boat," Mr Kelly said.
"We just started ticking over again marginally well.
"We have a good clientele from NSW and greater Sydney - this has thrown us. But we are still getting good support from Queensland and are ticking over at 50 per cent.
"We have a good customer base both from the southeast corner and a strong local following. We are still getting a lot of bookings from Townsville and from out west."
Port Douglas Sheraton Mirage general manager Steve Molnar said the hotel was positioned to react to the border closure after the lessons of the first lockdown.
"It will be just as it happened three months ago, but we are in a better position," Mr Molnar said.
"Plans change by the day and we have to flex with it.
"Queensland remains open; we'll take what we can and work our way through it."
Cairns Airport chief executive Norris Carter said the aviation industry was going through a "challenging time" with the combined impacts of the border clampdown and Virgin and Tigerair job losses.
"We're disappointed to hear about the border closures but understand the importance of these measures to keep Queensland safe," Mr Carter said.
"Cairns Airport continues to be in discussions with other airports and airlines all the time in response to the changing conditions for travel, to make sure that anyone who can or needs to travel here, can do so.
"This is a challenging time for the aviation industry and it's unfortunate that Virgin Australia will reduce jobs and Tigerair won't return in the near term. Tigerair accounted for just over six per cent of our capacity into Cairns mid last year."
A Transport Workers Union spokesman said no Virgin employees were based in Cairns.
"All the cabin crew are based out of Brisbane and the ground crew are handled by a third party contractor," the spokesman said.
"We know that Virgin is maintaining its regional network, it is a bit of a moving feast and we'll know more in a couple of days."
Originally published as FNQ 'lucky' haven for COVID refugees as business grits teeth