Calls for Tasmania to keep border closed to Victoria amid coronavirus crisis

For many Tasmanians life has largely returned to normal, but on the other side of Bass Strait it’s a different story.

As cases in Victoria continue to climb and metro Melbourne returns to lockdown, there are calls for Tasmania to exclude Victoria when the island state finally eases its border restrictions on July 24.

“They should stay closed for a little bit longer,” Tasmanian resident Simon Lyons said.

“It’s going to get worse in Victoria and it feels like it would be the wrong thing to do to open up.

“Even though it’s school holidays and everyone’s ready to move around, travel and that sort of thing. It should just stay closed for a little bit longer.”

But Simon is open to seeing direct flights to states other than Victoria, and he’s not alone.

Cathy Robustelli is predicting Tasmanians will make a “mass exodus” to Queensland to seek the sun.(ABC News: Lucy Macdonald)

Cathy Robustelli, who runs a food catering business in Hobart, said she was looking forward to the borders reopening.

“Fantastic! Yes, we need it. Especially here in Tasmania,” she said.

“There’s going to be a mass exodus to Queensland shortly so we can get some warm weather.”

However like Mr Lyons, Ms Robustelli said there was one state Tasmania should not open its borders to.

“There’s no way anyone should be going to Victoria or coming here from Victoria,” she said.

A woman smiles in a cafe as she stands behind a counter
Cafe owner Megan Spillane says she’s missing the tourists but has had plenty of community support.(ABC News: Lucy Macdonald)

Cafe owner Megan Spillane said she felt the same way, despite a particularly hard few months.

“It was tough and sad, but it was what it was. It’s really nice to be back [open]. We definitely missed it,” she said

Ms Spillane’s business, the Lost Freight Cafe, is based at the Springs on kunanyi/Mt Wellington.

A shipping container cafe nestled in the wilderness
The Lost Freight Cafe is popular with visitors to Hobart’s kunanyi/Mount Wellington.(ABC News: Lucy Macdonald)

With access to the mountain closed for a few months, she was forced to shut shop. Now she’s reopened but the tourists are yet to return.

“Locals have been awesome. We opened for weekends just to begin with and it was pumping. I think everyone was just keen to get out and about,” she said.

“The [disappearing] tarn definitely helped us over the last couple of weeks. School holidays are here so hopefully it picks up for us, but we’re definitely missing the tourists.”

While she’s not keen to see the borders opened to Victoria, Ms Spillane said tourists made up about 80 per cent of her trade and she was hanging out for July 24.

‘Difficult’ to open borders to Victoria

The question of how Tasmania will react to the Victorian crisis has been one the State Government has been grappling with ever since it put a date on easing its border restrictions.

Premier Peter Gutwein has ordered a review of the situation and what it might mean for Tasmania, which will be released on Friday.

But it’s not looking good for Tasmania’s closest neighbour.

The state had a record 191 new cases today and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has reintroduced stay-at-home orders for Melbourne metro and the shire of Mitchell from midnight tomorrow.

Last weekend, Mr Gutwein admitted it would be “very difficult to lower our borders” to Victoria at this current time.

Speaking to the media today, Attorney-General Elise Archer said the Government was “watching what is happening in other jurisdictions very closely”.

“The Premier will or intends to make further announcements as things progress, but what we must do is ensure the safety of all Tasmanians,” she said.

“Taking public health advice has stood us in good stead to get us through COVID so far.

“What we want to do is ensure that Tasmania remains safe.”

Opposition Leader Rebecca White said the Government should require essential travellers coming into Tasmania to undergo a COVID-19 test.

“At the moment somebody travelling into the state who is an essential worker with an exemption can travel around Tasmania,” she said.

“They don’t have to have a coronavirus test, they don’t even have to have their temperature taken on arrival.

“There’s obviously growing concern about what’s happening in Victoria now and we don’t want to see that occur here.”

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