Regional Queenslanders largely unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to face their toughest test yet as health authorities scramble to prevent the deadly virus from spreading across the state.
Residents living outside Greater Brisbane must wear a mask while indoors and gatherings at homes have been capped at 30 people.
It comes after a COVID-positive man spent three days at cafes, breweries and shops across Gladstone while infectious.
Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett said his community was on-edge but prepared to respond to the incident.
“He visited a lot of sites so people are a bit nervous,” he said.
“My community will be up at the hospital getting tested.
“They (health authorities) will be surprised by the number of people who have already turned up at the hospital.
“People are heeding the advice and getting tested.”
Mr Burnett said the next 24 to 48 hours would be critical with Easter events, Gladstone’s busiest time of the year, now under threat.
He said the major Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht race “may” be cancelled if the capital’s lockdown was extended, with organisers monitoring the situation.
“This couldn’t have come at a worse time,” he said.
“The next 24 to 48 hours will be what decides our future.”
Many Queensland regions have recorded none or only a handful of community COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
Local Government Association of Queensland CEO Greg Hallam tipped regional centres would “do very well” in this latest COVID-19 response.
“There’s been a greater level of concern in rural and regional Queensland than in southeast Queensland,” he said.
“It’s the concern about what comes out of a city, that rural and city divide
“They haven’t experienced it (COVID-19) and in indigenous communities, it has the potential to be devastating.”
Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher asked the Gladstone community to remain calm and get a COVID test if they are displaying any symptoms.
“I advise that people stay at home until they get tested if they have been to any of those hot spot locations,” Mr Butcher said.
“If anyone has been in Brisbane since last Saturday (March 20) it is advised that they do the same thing (lockdown for three days at home).”
Mr Butcher said he would be going into lockdown at home in Gladstone after visiting Brisbane.
Claire Bell, 33 from Barney Point said she panicked after seeing shoppers strip shelves of food and other groceries.
“We’ve been pretty lucky over the past year to avoid community transmission and to see people in our community wearing masks while picking up their kids makes you realise how serious this is,” she said.
“It’s a bit scary but until there’s people here spreading (the virus) between each other, I don’t think we need to be too worried.
“I’ll be wearing a mask to work over the next few days to work and school pick ups, and we won’t be going anywhere else.”
Originally published as ‘Devastating potential’: Virus battle reaches regional Qld