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Australia Easter holidays in doubt amid Greater Brisbane lockdown uncertainty

00:11  31 march  2021
00:11  31 march  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a group of people sitting at a crowded beach: The snap restrictions are due to be lifted at 5:00pm on Thursday, ahead of the Easter long weekend. (Supplied) © Provided by ABC News The snap restrictions are due to be lifted at 5:00pm on Thursday, ahead of the Easter long weekend. (Supplied)

Easter holiday plans for millions of Queenslanders are hanging in limbo, as residents of Greater Brisbane anxiously wait to hear whether lockdown orders will be extended beyond three days.

The snap restrictions came into effect on Monday evening and are due to be lifted at 5:00pm on Thursday, ahead of the Easter long weekend.

Queensland recorded eight new locally acquired cases yesterday, putting authorities on edge.

The state's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said it was "too early to decide" if the lockdown would end on Thursday as planned.

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"We'll just have to see how many cases we have and whether or not they're linked and whether or not they're in quarantine at the time that they're diagnosed," Dr Young said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital was placed into lockdown and the nearby Mater Mothers' Hospital sent some staff home amid "escalating" concerns over two COVID-19 clusters that also prompted the Commonwealth's Chief Medical Officer to declare Greater Brisbane a hotspot.

Griffith University infectious diseases expert Nigel McMillan said Queensland should expect to see more infections, as authorities weigh up a lockdown extension.

"I suspect if we have two or three cases, we might be able to lift the lockdown," Professor McMillan said.

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"If we have more than 10 cases that would probably extend the lockdown a few more days while they get the contact tracing underway.

"If we get much wider transmission, such as we had in Melbourne last year, then you have a longer community-wide lockdown.

"We're certainly not at that stage and this circuit breaker should allow us to avoid that."

Lockdown a 'bitter blow' for Easter season

There have been mass tourism cancellations across the state as people are forced to reassess their Easter travel plans.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) chief executive Daniel Gschwind said "hundreds of millions of dollars" were at stake in Greater Brisbane alone.

"Coming at the end of the 12-month crisis situation for operators, the expectation was that Easter would deliver relief and a bit of a boost to the tourism industry, and the beginning of better times," Mr Gschwind said.

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"To have that hope and aspiration dashed at the last minute is a really bitter blow, not just financially but emotionally for many operators."

Mr Gschwind urged interstate visitors to keep their travel plans for other parts of Queensland.

"Because of the blow to confidence and travellers' confidence, destinations in Queensland that are perfectly accessible and without any restrictions are also impacted," he said.

'We're still optimistic'

Noosa kayaking and camping tour operator Kym McGregor has been busy fielding cancellation calls from across south-east Queensland and interstate.

Ms McGregor said she was eagerly awaiting news about whether Greater Brisbane's lockdown would lift by the end of the week.

"We've had some people from Brisbane saying: 'Look, we're still optimistic,'" Ms McGregor said.

"I think at the moment I'm feeling like it'll be 50/50 just after [yesterday] with the new infections.

"What our hopes are is we can come out of lockdown … then once Easter holidays are really kicking in, we can go ahead as planned."

'I had a bit of a cry'

Perth resident Amy Rathmell was due to spend Easter with her sister and parents, who had planned to drive more than 4,000km from Dalby on Queensland's Darling Downs to see her.

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"Mum and Dad had booked in their long service leave to come over, so we had all of the accommodation booked – we were going up north and over to the Abrolhos Islands," Ms Rathmell said.

Her parents started their long drive on Saturday but were forced to turn around when Western Australia closed its border to Queensland.

"I was very upset on Saturday when I found out – I had a bit of a cry," Ms Rathmell said.

"It was probably our first family trip altogether just the four of us in probably four or five years.

"It was particularly disappointing knowing that mum and dad are coming from a rural area, hadn't been in Brisbane, hadn't been in the Greater Brisbane area."

Katy Roubin, who spent much of last year in Melbourne's lockdown, also cancelled plans to attend her Brisbane family's traditional Easter trip amid the uncertainty.

"I was meant to fly [tonight] so I've had to just cancel the flight because it's just a bit too risky at the moment," Ms Roubin said.

"It's sadly not the first time we've been in this situation."

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