Coronavirus creates ‘ghost towns’ in Brisbane’s south

NO new cases of coronavirus have been detected in Queensland for two weeks, but people are still boycotting restaurants, supermarkets and events on Brisbane's southside.

Chinese community leaders and politicians have been forced to once again reiterate the simple message "there is no threat" to people's health in a bid to save local businesses and bring people back to areas such as Sunnybank.

Queensland Chinese Forum honorary president Dr Kee Cheung OAM told the Southern Star it was devastating to see Sunnybank shopping centres and restaurants resembling ghost towns.

 

"(Sunnybank) traders are down more than 50 per cent," the Rochedale local said.

"(Local businesses) are very concerned about what the future holds.

"They are being forced to lay off staff, first casuals, then part-time and eventually full-time.

"Staff are taking unpaid leave … the restaurants need to pay rent.

"There is only so much that they can endure … some will have to close their businesses."

Dr Cheung said it wasn't just Sunnybank that was feeling the effects of coronavirus fears - suburbs such as MacGregor and Upper Mt Gravatt were also being impacted.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk eats yum cha with members of the Chinese community in Sunnybank. (AAP/Image Sarah Marshall)
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk eats yum cha with members of the Chinese community in Sunnybank. (AAP/Image Sarah Marshall)

"It is even affecting Westfield Garden City (restaurants)," he said.

"It breaks your heart when there are only two tables (in a restaurant) filled.

"Businesses are really struggling. "I feel angry about it."

"More people die from car crashes but that doesn't stop us from driving."

Dr Cheung said people should "alert but not alarmed" when it came to novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

"I think people feel scared because they are watching too much (about coronavirus) on television," he said.

"People shouldn't panic.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with members of the Chinese community in Sunnybank. (AAP/Image Sarah Marshall)
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with members of the Chinese community in Sunnybank. (AAP/Image Sarah Marshall)

Sunnybank's Fortune Well Restaurant manager Becky Xie said the business had gone from being packed to hosting just two tables on a Saturday night.

She said they were struggling to pay wages and at serious risk of losing their business.

"Local people here need to support the local community," she said.

Taiwanese community leaders and politicians meet over lunch to discuss how to deal with the business impacts of coronavirus around the Sunnybank area. (AAP image, John Gass)
Taiwanese community leaders and politicians meet over lunch to discuss how to deal with the business impacts of coronavirus around the Sunnybank area. (AAP image, John Gass)

Another Sunnybank restaurant owner - who did not want to be named - said he had experienced up to a 50 per cent drop in business recently.

"They've all been mainly takeaway as well, they don't want to stay around too long," he said. "They even come in with mini hand sanitiser."

Federal Member for Moreton Graham Perrett MP has been concerned for weeks about the dive in business activity in the area and has been encouraging as many people as possible to eat out.

Florence Day, Federal Member for Moreton Graham Perrett MP, Tracy Lin, Steve Hsu and Glamorous Wok owner Jacky Lee. Taiwanese community leaders meet over lunch to discuss how to deal with business impacts of coronavirus around the Sunnybank area. (AAP image, John Gass)
Florence Day, Federal Member for Moreton Graham Perrett MP, Tracy Lin, Steve Hsu and Glamorous Wok owner Jacky Lee. Taiwanese community leaders meet over lunch to discuss how to deal with business impacts of coronavirus around the Sunnybank area. (AAP image, John Gass)

"This is a fun way to show your support for a community that needs it," he said.

"Come out, have a meal and order an extra dish."

Brisbane City Councillor Kim Marx (Runcorn ward) said it was "a shame" to see so many vacant car parks at the usually bustling Sunnybank Plaza and Sunny Park Shopping Centre.

"Hopefully it can return to normal," she said.

Cr Kim Marx. Picture: Kristy Muir
Cr Kim Marx. Picture: Kristy Muir

Queensland Health chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said the first of the state's confirmed novel coronavirus (COVID-19) patients had left Gold Coast University Hospital, having recovered.

An 8-year-old-boy, a Chinese national from Wuhan who was confirmed to have novel coronavirus in early February, left hospital with his family last Wednesday.

"There have still only been five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Queensland, the most recent being identified two weeks ago," she said.

If you have been to China in the last 14 days and feel unwell please immediately see a doctor. Please call ahead to the GP surgery or hospital to let them know you may be infected with the novel coronavirus.

A woman wearing a face mask. (AAP Image/James Gourley)
A woman wearing a face mask. (AAP Image/James Gourley)

Professor Nigel McMillan, director of infectious diseases and immunology at Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, said Brisbane residents needed to "take a deep breath and carry on" with life as normal.

"There's no more risk (of visiting Sunnybank than Beenleigh or anywhere else," Prof McMillan said.

Prof McMillan said good handwashing and hygiene, and staying a metre away from anyone coughing or sneezing were the only precautions necessary at this stage.



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