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Australia Regional towns in NSW 'anxious' about COVID-19 as city daytrippers descend

04:17  05 august  2020
04:17  05 august  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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a man standing in front of a window: Orange cafe owner, Ricky Carver, is frustrated that some tourists are not following COVID-19 rules when visiting regional NSW. (By Joanna Woodburn) © Provided by ABC Health Orange cafe owner, Ricky Carver, is frustrated that some tourists are not following COVID-19 rules when visiting regional NSW. (By Joanna Woodburn)

Regional New South Wales is teeming with temptations for tourists, but the state's newest and perhaps biggest drawcard is the coronavirus-free status of most of its country towns — and it's making those communities anxious.

"People feel that the regional areas are safer because we're not seeing the [coronavirus] numbers that they are in the cities," Berry retailer Sandy Bramley said.

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"We are safer because we don't have any COVID cases out here, but we need to keep it that way."

Each weekend thousands of people are flocking to regional towns and cities for short breaks.

They have been encouraged to do so by the NSW Government and the communities themselves, to help inject some much-needed cash into small businesses and regional economies.

"We love that everyone is supporting small business, which is much appreciated, but we do get a little anxious when it gets towards the weekends," Ms Bramley said.

The ABC has been told about numerous instances where city visitors have flouted the COVID-19 rules by not social distancing at cafes, venues and shops, and some people have become angry when reminded by locals.

"While most people do get it, you do often get the people who are quite offended," Ms Bramley said.

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Four regional local government areas in Victoria have never identified a single case of coronavirus Many need to cross the now-closed border to NSW for work or grocery shopping and have Nineteen suburbs in the Hindmarsh Shire are in the same position, despite having recorded no COVID cases.

"One gentleman just recently said 'That's OK, I was about to spend $1,000 but I won't bother'. It makes it really hard for us."

Coffs attraction turning tourists away

The number of visitors heading to the state's north coast has also soared, with accommodation providers reporting a spike in bookings.

A tourist attraction at Coffs Harbour had to turn away more than 40 people who had travelled there from a COVID-19 hotspot in Sydney.

Verne Dove, from the Butterfly House, said the tourists had been asked for identification.

"Most of them took it pretty well," Ms Dove said.

"We got a couple of bad reviews from people we turned away, unfortunately.

"At the end of the day it's for the greater good of our community, our staff, our other visitors, and our family."

Many regional events have been cancelled, postponed or turned into virtual experiences this year due to the pandemic.

At Orange in the NSW central west, the city's Winter Fire Festival was held last weekend just after the city recorded its first case of coronavirus in months.

Despite the precautions, the large crowds it attracted drew criticism.

#growthfactorgraphicEMBEDfull

'You'll get the eye-roll'

Orange cafe owner, Ricky Carver, said the pressures of the pandemic were being compounded by the need to ensure customers played their part.

"You'll get the eye-roll, the huff and puff, and the general annoyance of you asking them what to do," Mr Carver said.

Mr Carver has social-distancing signs on his cafe's walls, windows, doors and tables, reminding people of the need to remain 1.5 metres apart.

"It's hard enough as it is to stay open and remain open during these times," he said.

"We've got our hands tied with the guidelines that we have to implement to keep ourselves, our staff, and our community safe."

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