Gympie Centrelink jammed as coronavirus takes hold
THE line extended out the doors of Gympie's Centrelink branch yesterday morning as the region continued to feel the full effects of the worsening coronarivus pandemic.
Leaders in the Gympie business community mused on just how severe the crisis would be for the region's unemployment rate after Federal Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said "hundreds of thousands, maybe a million" people were left unemployed in the wake of extreme shutdown measures introduced to try and curb the spread of COVID-19.
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Gympie's unemployment rate sat at 6.7 per cent as of the September quarter of 2019, the lowest figure recorded since 6.6 per cent in September 2012 but still 0.3 per cent higher than the Queensland rate.
Federal Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien said the economic impact of the "destructive" virus was "virtually impossible to predict beyond what we know on a day-to-day basis".
"Much of our economy relies on social interaction, participation and engagement and COVID-19 is the enemy of all forms of social contact, and is the enemy of our economy," Mr O'Brien said.
"The loss of hospitality and tourism jobs caused by the coronavirus outbreak is a devastating blow for our region which is so reliant on these industries for jobs and livelihoods."
Mr O'Brien said the $189 billion "comprehensive economic support plan" introduced this week would "keep businesses in business, people in jobs, provide assistance for households, and help for jobseekers and students".
Gympie Chamber of Commerce president Tony Goodman said there was "no leadership manual" for the coronavirus situation as the region braced for its extreme impacts.
"Basically people are feeling very insecure, and that's probably an understatement really, but that's the message that's coming through," Mr Goodman said.
"It's little bit like a bunny in the spotlight, this situation, and it's not getting any better.
"You can't stick your head in the sand, you've got to be realistic and call it like you see it. If we have this conversation in a week's time it's certainly going to be a lot worse than it is at the moment.
"The stimulus package that's coming through is not really a stimulus package, more so a survival package."
Mr Goodman emphasised the need to "keep calm and keep carrying on" through the crisis, and said the Chamber would be meeting again with the Gympie Regional Council on Thursday to discuss the immediate future of the region's business sector.
The Mary Valley Rattler, the Gympie ARC. Deep Blue Aquatics and Cooloola Berries are among the latest Gympie businesses to close indefinitely close their doors in the face of the pandemic, while Tramcars Bakery announced they would remain open for takeaway only.
The Widgee General Store and bottle shop remain open, but the diner has been closed until further notice.