The Balonne Shire Council is confident the progressive relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions can be safely implemented across the region as everyone works towards returning to business as usual.
Balonne Shire Mayor, Samantha O’Toole said the State Government was easing restrictions earlier than anticipated. “Some people are worried it’s too soon, but we can’t let fear stop us from taking this step forward.”
Cr O’Toole said Council was working with all local businesses to ensure they had health plans in place so residents could confidently embrace the changes that would kick-start our economy again.
“Intense planning by the Local Disaster Management Group has strategies in place to protect our community now, and a rapid response ready to contain any potential pandemic outbreak in our Shire.”
Cr O’Toole said from Saturday 16 May, dining-in at restaurants, cafés, pubs, licensed clubs and hotels would be allowed for up to 20 people at a time, although bars and gaming would remain closed.
Bookings will be essential. “There are still rules to follow, so if you are refused entry because there are too many people already at a venue, please act with understanding and patience.”
Balonne Shire residents will be able to travel up to 500km for day trips and Cr O’Toole hopes residents will use this opportunity to visit smaller communities in our shire that have struggled during the lockdown.
“We can now visit family and friends in other Outback areas such as Charleville and Roma. However, we can’t go to restricted areas like Goondiwindi or Toowoomba,” she said. “The 500 kilometre ruling means people from other Outback towns can visit us too, and we need to make them feel welcome.”
Cr O’Toole said from 16 May Council amenities across the shire would re-open for recreational use, including playgrounds, BBQ equipment, skate parks, outdoor gyms and the Amphitheatre. However, the Thermal Springs and swimming pools will remain closed.
From Monday 18 May, the St George Council reception will re-open along with Council libraries, however activities that encourage gatherings will not recommence until restrictions are eased further.
Cr O’Toole reiterated the importance of maintaining social distancing and good hygiene as locals and travellers come together to make use of the available facilities. “Try to avoid over-populated situations, and please remember if you are sick, stay at home.”
She added many who are "at risk" in our community may not feel comfortable stepping out of their homes at this stage. “We need to respect and support how others manage the easing of restrictions.”
Cr O’Toole said more and more people were about to come into the Balonne Shire. “We are prepared and ready, and I know our residents will act with integrity, generosity and compassion as we re-open our doors and welcome people in.”