‘Can’t keep going like this’: Snap lockdown causes chaos
FAR North leaders are scrambling to respond to another sudden lockdown of the Queensland border to residents of greater Melbourne that's thrown holiday plans, elite sport and a major festival into chaos.
Contact tracing has started for 1500 people scattered across the Sunshine State following the announcement of a five-day lockdown in Melbourne.
The news has cast doubt over a Port Douglas festival, set to attract 1000 people, amid fears many ticketholders will not be able to travel.
It's also grounded the Cairns Taipans, who were due to fly to Melbourne on Friday.
Cairns Labor MP Michael Healy said the decision to close the border to the Victorian capital for two weeks from 1am on Saturday was "unfortunate, but necessary".
"It's disappointing," he said.
"It continues to impact significantly on our region, jobs, and prosperity of our tourism industry. But it has to happen and hopefully we can get it under control."
The Hot and Steamy Festival - the region's only LGBTIQ event - had two acts and hundreds of punters due to arrive from Melbourne, although Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr was hopeful the February 19-22 festival could proceed.
He said the border closure was "extremely devastating" and had the potential to kill confidence in domestic travel.
"We can't keep going like this," he said.
"It's extremely devastating for tourism destinations like us. The more this happens the less confidence people have in booking holidays."
Melbourne tourist Richard Blunden agreed. The 56-year-old, speaking from the Cairns Airport on Friday after 10 days at Port Douglas, predicted a nosedive in interest from southerners because of what he called "incompetent snap lockdowns by an incompetent (Victorian) government".
"A lot of people I know just won't book anything if it keeps up," he said.
"It affects the Far North and it also affects us Victorians.
"Port Douglas wasn't bustling but it wasn't a ghost town either. It might be if more of this happens."
Rolf Forster, 56, was holidaying at Palm Cove but was scrambling to get back to the Victorian capital on Friday.
"When Melbourne agreed to host the Australian Open, with 1200 people coming in from overseas, it was inevitable that this was going to happen," he said.
"I think the tens of thousands of Victorians scattered around Australia who have had their travel plans ruined should take out a class action against Tennis Australia. It's a joke."
Tourism Port Douglas Daintree chief executive Tara Bennett said the swift action in Victoria was a stark reminder of how quickly "the status quo can change".
She said many Hot and Steamy events were sold out but the Victorian lockdown now provided a chance for regional people to make a weekend of it "and come and party in Port Douglas".
Originally published as 'Can't keep going like this': Snap lockdown causes travel chaos