'It's not the zombie apocalypse': Top End businesses urge customers to shake off coronavirus fears

Businesses across the Top End are encouraging people to go about their regular routines despite fears over the spread of Covid-19.

Darwin restauranteur Jason Hanna.

Darwin restauranteur Jason Hanna. Source: SBS News

Residents are being encouraged to continue their normal routines in the Top End, despite rising fears over the transmission of coronavirus.

In the Northern Territory, just one positive case has been recorded but no community spread of the virus has been noted.

Free access to the Uluru-Kata, Kakadu and Booderee National Parks will start from Monday, meanwhile, the Darwin waterfront has introduced free parking to tempt locals and visitors to the restaurant precinct.

Darwin Waterfront Corporation’s Sam Bourke said it’s important to encourage people to look after small businesses in case tougher restrictions are implemented down the track.

Darwin Waterfront Corporation’s Sam Bourke.
Source: SBS News

“We have no community transfer in Darwin, the government is right on top of that, the health department is right on top of that and they’re keeping the public up to date,” said Mr Bourke.

“We don’t want people to be afraid, we need people to know the place is safe and businesses need them.

“It’s a great time to get out because if community transfer does happen in the future it’s going to be a really tough time for small businesses.”

Catastrophic to small business

Darwin restauranteur Jason Hanna said there is already a high standard of health practices in restaurants but if more transparency is needed then he’s willing to do that.

“We’re already concerned about foodborne diseases so our practices are already at a pretty high standard,” he explained.

“I think what we’re going to have to start showing the public what we do already whether that’s wiping down menus in front of them or even showing how we wash our hands.”

Mr Hanna said the biggest blow to the industry will be the panic following the news of coronavirus.

“It’s not the zombie apocalypse yet so come down and get a feed,” he said.

“I think the penny dropped when people started buying excess toilet paper it clearly doesn’t take much for people to panic.

“All we can do is continue to follow good procedures that are recommended by the world health organisation.”

Many businesses are already feeling the pressure of the lull before the tourist season, said Mr Hanna, adding that if people stop going out altogether it would be devastating to small businesses.

“I think it would catastrophic and it would be a domino effect, it’ll be the staff that work here, the business itself, the suppliers we are all connected in a small town like this.

“All we have to do is come together and use a bit of common sense obviously take precautions, but it doesn’t mean we’re going to be covering ourselves in plastic bags and walking around the streets either.”

Residents and tourists not too worried

Cameron Grant is visiting from Melbourne and said there is a small risk but it should not stop people from living their lives.

“I think personal hygiene is important, but you need to get out, be cautious, but get out and enjoy yourself,” he said.

(L to R) Cameron Grant, Jill Grant and Robbie Grant.
Source: SBS News

Lucy Cao, an international student from China, said it would be devastating to see Darwin go into lockdown - a similar fate that has already faced her family.

“Things are only just now getting back to normal in China, my family was isolated for weeks,” she said.

International student Lucy Cao and her husband Jian Gao.
Source: SBS News

“Coronavirus is serious and people should be cautious but it’s not a big deal in the Northern Territory at the moment.”

Non-essential travel under the microscope

A source from Tiwi Island told SBS News that it is believed that “all non-essential travel from the mainland will be restricted” ahead of the Tiwi Islands Football League Grand Final.

They say “the game itself will go ahead” but if restrictions are put in place it will be a blow to the island's economy.

“There’s a lot of children and elders and if it did get onto the island it could devastating,” they explained.

“There aren’t enough resources to test everybody that gets on that ferry or a plane and 25 per cent of the tourists come from all over Australia.

“It’s a tragedy because it will have a blow to the Tiwi economy.”

The decision will be confirmed on Saturday morning.

The uncertainty comes after Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy recommended to the nation’s leaders that all gatherings of more than 500 people should be banned to limit the spread of the coronavirus from next week.

156 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in Australia with three deaths.

Of those who have contracted the coronavirus, 26 people have since recovered.

Published 13 March 2020 at 7:58pm
By Aneeta Bhole