‘Some people will never cross the border again’

THE Queensland Parliament was warned in June last year about the wider impact of COVID restrictions on the Queensland-NSW border - and again just two months later. This was all about medical issues just as serious as getting the virus itself.

The Greater Southern Gold Coast Chamber of Commerce had made two submissions to a parliamentary committee's inquiry on the government's economic response to COVID-19.

Police screen incoming passengers. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Police screen incoming passengers. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

A Hansard search reveals the chamber was the only Coast group or individual to offer comment and, ironically, its focus was not so much about the economic impact of coronavirus.

Chamber president Hilary Jacobs warned about how border residents were not able to attend to important medical treatments.

"This may lead to ongoing chronic issues or even premature deaths," she wrote. "Sadly, this will impact NSW more than Queensland as in many cases proximity to quality services in Brisbane has until now been vital to these people."

A cyclist riding past a barrier across the Queensland and New South Wales border. (AAP Image/Darren England)
A cyclist riding past a barrier across the Queensland and New South Wales border. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Ms Jacobs acknowledges some of the earlier restrictions, which even affected health workers like paramedics, were later lifted.

But the financial stress remained, and the chamber cautioned the parliament that "no amount of regional jobs packages can replace small business jobs which are currently under threat".

The chamber's submission touched on its survey of businesses within five kilometres of the border and found almost 50 per cent of employers had staff who lived in NSW.

About a third of those would have to close two days a week, and about 17 per cent would shut up shop. The bottom line is half would be impacted by any further border closures.

Chamber leader Hilary Jacobs. Picture: Scott Fletcher.
Chamber leader Hilary Jacobs. Picture: Scott Fletcher.

Remember, this was still very early in the lockdowns and the hard border stance.

Ms Jacobs made a very valid point: "The economic, community and long-term damage now being done and further contemplated by ongoing and threatened further border restrictions, far outweighs the potential harm to the state in terms of COVID impact," she wrote.

So now 12 months on from the first recorded COVID case on the Coast, talking to Ms Jacobs, she offers another valuable insight beyond the economics.

"There are elderly who do not have access to the internet. Those people's lives have changed completely," she says.

 

Some older Tweed residents have gone to the same GP in Queensland for 20 years, and shopped at the same big retail shopping centre on the Queensland side.

"There's a digital divide. There are people who don't understand a smart phone. They are people who go to the bank once a fortnight, draw out all their money (from the pension) and then pay in cash."

Some of these people talk to her about missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime, saved-up trip for overseas. At 80, they reflect on the loss of a year they can never get back, about how they no longer visit their oldest friends in Queensland.

Then, they make a stunning admission. They tell her they will never cross the border again.

 

paul.weston@news.com.au

 

 

 

 

Originally published as 'Some people will never cross the border again'


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