Call to drop restrictions after controversial protest
BUSINESSES have called on the Palaszczuk Government to drop restrictions in a fortnight if the weekend's mass protests don't result in a second wave of COVID cases.
The Government yesterday defended the lack of penalty for up to 30,000 people who defied public health rules to march in Brisbane and Townsville at the weekend, insisting that customer limits needed to remain despite the crowded scenes.
But the tourism industry has suggested the Black Lives Matter march could prove an "unexpected medical experiment" that demonstrates whether remaining restrictions are necessary.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief Daniel Gschwind said the industry was desperate to fully reopen.
"It is an unexpected aspect of the protest, leaving everything else aside, maybe it will demonstrate that we are out of the major danger zone and can get on with business faster than we thought," he said.
His comments came as State Development and Tourism Minister Kate Jones was unable to explain why 30,000 people were allowed to gather in the street, but people still couldn't go to a sporting event or a theme park.
At Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary yesterday to announce $11 million in State Government funding to help Gold Coast theme parks pay workers laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Jones blamed the protesters for defying health advice.
"I didn't let 30,000 protesters protest in Brisbane (and) neither did the Government," she said. "The Premier said very clearly 'do not go to the protest'. The Police Commissioner said 'do not go to the protest'. Some people, the majority of them young, chose to ignore that health advice."
But despite the controversial rally - where protesters largely flouted public gathering and social-distancing rules for which others have been heavily fined - Ms Jones said that theme parks, stadiums and other large-scale venues could not reopen without COVID-safe plans.
Chamber of Commerce Industry Queensland spokeswoman Amanda Rohan said all businesses should be allowed to reopen to unlimited people as long as they maintain the 4sq m rule.
Ms Rohan said the Government had shown it could be agile throughout the pandemic and that "it's time they do it again".
"Now the focus should be on allowing businesses to reopen and operate providing they can operate in a COVID-safe way, by adhering to social-distancing measures, and having hygiene practices in place. Unnecessarily holding off for a set date doesn't make sense and delays the ability for Queensland to get firing again," she said.
Clark Kirby, boss of Village Roadshow theme parks Sea World, Movie World and Wet 'n' Wild, said it was "certainly very frustrating" to see images of Saturday's protest while parks remained closed.
Mr Kirby said the theme park group had submitted a COVIDSafe plan to Queensland Health and hoped to reopen Sea World in time for at least the second week of the coming school holidays.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary will reopen on June 26 to customers who pre-book. While many major venues and theme parks remained closed, some zoos were already back in business.
Wildlife HQ chief executive Jarrod Schenke said the Sunshine Coast zoo, which opened on Friday, was enforcing social distancing and extra hygiene measures. Up to 800 guests are allowed in at any one time, based on the one visitor per 4sq m rule.
"There's just so much open air and space for people to socially distance responsibly," Mr Schenke said.
"There's hand sanitiser stations throughout the zoo and social distancing signs."
Mr Schenke said strong numbers had been attending since Wildlife HQ reopened, which came as a relief.
"We've been closed for nearly three months, and it's been a huge struggle," he said. "It's been very rewarding to see people back in the zoo and loving their time here. We need the visitation to keep us going."
Sarah Dean drove from Cleveland to the Sunshine Coast with her 5-year-old son Zach "to reconnect with nature" at Wildlife HQ after the COVID lockdown.
"He just had a smile from ear to ear when he saw all the animals. He absolutely loved it."
A Dreamworld spokesperson said it had submitted a COVIDSafe plan to Queensland Health for review.
Queensland Performing Arts Centre chief executive John Kotzas said the organisation was working through how and when it would reopen.
"We're working together with health experts, industry peak bodies and partners to ascertain what we need to put in place to ensure our performers and audiences feel safe once we can reopen our doors.
Originally published as Call to drop restrictions after controversial protest