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New tourism blow for Far North Queensland as Sydney declared coronavirus hotspot

ABC Health logo ABC Health 30/07/2020 By Kristy Sexton-McGrath and staff
Cairns is dealt another blow with Sydneysiders banned from visiting Queensland from Saturday. (ABC Far North: Brendan Mounter) © Provided by ABC Health Cairns is dealt another blow with Sydneysiders banned from visiting Queensland from Saturday. (ABC Far North: Brendan Mounter)

Far North Queensland's tourism-driven economy has been dealt another blow, with all of metropolitan Sydney being declared a coronavirus hotspot.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced the state will close the border to dozens of local government areas in New South Wales from 1:00am on Saturday after a spike in cases there.

Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO Mark Olsen said the decision could cost the region $100 million.

"It's a devastating blow for the tourism sector," Mr Olsen said.

"In just a bit under three weeks we saw more than 10,000 passengers come through from Sydney, we were just starting our recovery.

"It's another setback but we know that the only way we can start a vibrant, healthy tourism economy is to be clear of this health concern."

Mr Olsen said 11 flights from Sydney to Cairns had already been cancelled as a result of the latest border ban.

He said the decision would prompt a change in marketing the region.

"We'll be pulling back from New South Wales and concentrating again on south-east Queensland as well as Adelaide and Western Australia."

Border closures taking a toll on residents

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said the latest border closure would have an impact on residents' mental wellbeing.

"Some people are feeling very battered and hammered and the worst for wear at the moment, and this will certainly affect their confidence further," Councillor Manning said.

But he conceded that the decision to declare Sydney as a COVID-19 hotspot was the "right thing to do".

"The health authorities have to do what they have to do — there's no arguing about that and we can't risk an exponential explosion of COVID-19," he said.

"We know from the second wave experience of Victoria that we've got to do everything we can to not let this second wave impose on us any further and the message is just to do what we've been told to do."

Cairns-based economist Peter Faulkner said the latest border closure was "really bad news" for the region.

"Our modelling shows that unemployment will continue to move up to at least 9 per cent in September," Mr Faulkner said.

Cairns has the highest number of residents receiving the Federal Government's JobKeeper benefit in Queensland.

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