Tourism boss ‘never seen anything like this’
A VETERAN Gold Coast tourism boss who witnessed the worst of 2002's SARS outbreak, Global Financial Crisis and post-9/11 market slumps says he's "never seen anything like" the coronavirus crisis.
Destination Gold Coast chairman Paul Donovan, speaking yesterday after an emergency meeting of the Gold Coast COVID-19 taskforce, ruled out Gold Coast Airport shutting as Qantas axed 60 per cent of domestic services and 90 per cent of its international flights.
But he added: "It's no secret it is a changing feast and while we were (in the meeting) there was an announcement about Qantas.
"It changes minute by minute and we have to knuckle down and make sure we can look at opportunities to keep these great industries we've got - tourism and aviation.
"I've been around a long time and never seen anything like this. I was working for an airline on September 11 and when Ansett collapsed and SARS. This is far worse.
"We have to try to slow this thing down but we have to protect our families, our staff and our businesses."
In latest developments:
● The Gold Coast recorded its 10th case, a healthcare worker.
● Queensland Health confirmed the state's first community transmission on the Gold Coast.
● Virus testing is being rationed to avoid running out of testing agent and avoid result delays.
● The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last night urged Australians overseas to return as soon as possible on commercial flights.
● DFAT's warning came as it emerged severely ill patients may not be admitted to intensive care if they have chronic health issues that mean it is unlikely they would survive coronavirus under dramatic new guidelines.
The rules, released by the Australian and NZ Intensive Care Society, warn in the event of an overwhelming demand for critical care services during the COVID-19 outbreak: "Senior Intensive Care medical staff, recognising available resources, should consider the probable outcome of the patient's condition, the burden of ICU treatment for the patient and their family, patients' comorbidities and wishes, and likelihood of response to treatment."
A city taskforce, led by Mayor Tom Tate, includes ex-Premier Rob Borbidge, events supremo Tony Cochrane, business titans John Witheriff and Bec Frizelle, plus Bulletin editor Rachel Hancock.
Cr Tate said : "I can't remember a more challenging time since I came to the Gold Coast in 1993. This has no boundary. We have our floods, we had Cyclone Oswald but with those there is a timeframe.
"With this I cannot give you a timeframe and that's where uncertainty comes from. There is confidence the Gold Coast will come together and come out of this.
"It is going to be a longer term event so I put forward to the state and federal governments this - yes we got an economic injection but look at big business. They employ a lot of people so what do they need to keep employing people?"
A Gold Coast healthcare worker - based in the Robina Health Precinct - was yesterday identified among latest Queenslanders to test positive and is the city's tenth active case. They tested positive at the weekend and are in isolation.
Contact tracing by health officials determined the staffer did not contract it at the hospital.
It comes as Queensland Health works to contact trace every single case in the Gold Coast after confirming a community tranmission has occurred in the city, meaning not one brought in on arrival but passed direct by people here.
The Queensland total last night was up 10 to 78 including A-lister Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson, both understood to have left Gold Coast University Hospital yesterday to self-isolate.
The healthcare crisis is gripping the entire economy, with the Coast's $6 billion tourism industry taking a battering.
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham, visiting the Gold Coast for a roundtable meeting with tourism leaders, said: "This region relies more on the tourism industry than virtually any other in Australia and has a unique appeal as a leading tourism destination.
"We will for certain parts of the industry even consider additional measures to make sure they are there for the recovery.
"These are going to be difficult weeks and months ahead, we cannot guarantee there will not be business failures, we know there are already job losses but we want to make sure the critical assets of the tourism industry are there so they can step up again when domestic and global travel returns."
A second Federal stimulus package - following last week's $17.6 billion injection - is days away with the Government exploring ways to guarantee business loans, refinance debt and take on bank risk.
The Gold Coast's disaster management unit is in lockdown and quarantined as part of preparations to deal with the escalating outbreak.
Cr Tate said steps were being taken to allow the city to keep running in the event of an emergency.
"Nobody is immune to COVID-19. There is always some part of the business which will be affected," he said.
"The people in (the disaster unit) are fit and healthy so that if a disaster hits our city, we can continue and support our health department," he said.
Cr Tate heads the unit but will not be placed into quarantine. He is screened whenever he is required to interact.
Gold and Tweed Coast's leading travel agencies yesterday were experiencing a huge drop in trade.
Mike Dwyer, who runs Main Beach Travel with wife Mandy Dwyer, said business was down 80 per cent compared to the same time last year.
"We're still very busy - but it is mainly handling cancellations and chasing up refunds," he said. "There is very little new business coming in. At this stage for businesses like us it is batten down the hatches and keep things together."
Mr Dwyer said the company had a "buffer" of funds to make it through the crisis and had not had any redundancies.
Legal Aid Queensland stopped sending lawyers, including duty lawyers, to Southport court to halt coronavirus spreading. But courts will stay open.
Signs went up at Southport Courthouse yesterday to say duty lawyers were unavailable.
"A face-to-face duty lawyer service provided by Legal Aid Queensland is NOT AVAILABLE at this time," the sign said, adding to call Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 651 188."
Duty lawyers provide free legal advice to those appearing in court who may not be able to afford to hire a lawyer.
It is understood the Legal Aid lawyers will appear in court by phone.
Additional reporting by Tom Minear, John Rolfe, Grant McArthur, Tamsin Rose and Natasha Bita.