Roma Hospital. Picture: Mark Calleja
Roma Hospital. Picture: Mark Calleja

COVID-19 in Roma, Chinchilla and Dalby: all you need to know

EACH day we will provide you with the latest headlines surrounding coronavirus and how it's impacting Roma, Chinchilla, Dalby and surrounds, as well as the rest of Queensland and Australia.

As of today, zero cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the South West Hospital and Health Service. Darling Downs Health has 17 confirmed cases.

Our graziers and farmers are some of the most essential people during this pandemic, Maranoa MP David Littleproud has confirmed. He said this morning that feeding our nation is an essential service.

Other services have been deemed as less essential. Today the Queensland Government announced the Westlander train service will be suspended indefinitely, in a bid to keep coronavirus out of the southwest. Long haul coaches will also be reduced, only providing a bare bones services for essential travel for medical reasons.

One rural doctor has branded tourists planning coming to the west during the pandemic as 'irresponsible. His town of St George is already adhering to strict policies on gathering and social distancing, and he warned it will be outsiders who bring the disease to the region.

Community leaders have echoed those sentiments. In the far western Bulloo Shire, mayor John 'Tractor' Ferguson has banned tourists, issuing a point-blank message: 'stay away, our community won't cope'.

In neighbouring Paroo Shire the only hospital, Cunnamulla Hospital, has just two respirators. Mayor Lindsay Godfrey said the facility was not built to cope with the strain of tourists during a coronavirus outbreak.

Want to know how various shires are working to stop COVID-19 arriving? We asked the western shires what strategies they had in place.

Most sports are cancelled at the current time, but the southwest horse racing industry has found a surprising upside to strict virus-preventing lockdowns issued by Racing Queensland. The Roma Picnic Races, running on Saturday, are set to have more runners than first expected, as RQ lockdowns stop country trainers from leaving the Darling Downs race region.

Bartenders left unemployed after the recent pub closures say they're worried about paying bills and accessing support. They live in Roma, which has been without a Centrelink office for over a year, and now their only option is to battle the social service's long phone waiting times, along with thousands of other callers.

Self-isolated coal seam gas workers have the backing of one union group, which says workers should receive special leave pay during the health crisis.

In Roma, local motels have been hit hard by cancellations of bookings as far ahead as July an August. Roma Inland Motel acting manager Kate Johnson said tall businesses are suffering, but they are working together to share what little profits can still be made.

Motel owners in St George echoed those worries. After surviving eight years of drought, Mary-ann Crowe said they're trying their best to keep their staff on, but "things are looking grim."

Two backpackers who had just arrived in Roma say the community has 'saved their lives' during these turbulent times. The pair had just started work at local pubs when all venues were told to close, but thankfully another local business was able to take them on.

In light of the recent announcement that schools will go student-free, a Dalby mum has shared her reasons for keeping her kids at home during the pandemic. She pulled her two sons out of school well before the school closures were decided.

The decision to go ahead with Queensland's local government elections tomorrow has been blasted by medical authorities amid warnings of thousands of new infections.

Australia has now passed 3000 coronavirus cases with the numbers growing rapidly particularly in more populated centres.

In Queensland, Brisbane and the Gold Coast have by far the largest number of cases.

Brisbane's metro north region topped the list with 144 cases followed by metro south with 123.

The Gold Coast has 91 and Sunshine Coast 56. West Moreton, which includes Ipswich, has 17 cases.

Source - World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins, other media

As we grapple with this new normal of state borders closed, a driver who attempted to run the border blockade into the Gold Coast was taken into police custody for a series of very bizarre reasons.

In Toowoomba, virus victim Garry Kirstenfeldt has been remembered by his family as an incredible man who touched all of their lives.

Daughter Jennifer Kirstenfeldt today set up a GoFundMe page for her father, who died on Wednesday after contracting COVID-19 on the Voyager of the Seas cruise ship.

"Our father was a man with much more life in him," Ms Kirstenfeldt said.

But it's not all terrible. There have been plenty of reports of long queues outside Centrelink offices as thousands across the country lose work.

But the kind gesture of one woman will warm the cockles of your heart.

And in a heartwarming act that is being copied across the country, meet the Aussie feeding hundreds of anxious Centrelink customers each day because it is "the right thing to do"

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