Business owners in New South Walesâ€™s snow resorts say they fear tourists will bring a coronavirus outbreak to their otherwise Covid-free community.
Paul Antone, owner of Central Road 2625 cafe in Thredbo Village, said even though Thredbo was limiting tourists, â€œitâ€™s not going to make a difference if one of them brings Covid-19 hereâ€.
Antone said small businesses had been warned that if there was an outbreak, the village would have to close.
A Thredbo spokesperson said that whether the village would have to close would depend on the scale of the outbreak.
â€œThis process will be led by the NSW Department of Health and is likely to involve isolation of the impacted guest or staff member and a contact tracing procedure to identify all at-risk people who may be required to enter a period of isolation,â€ the spokesperson said.
Thredbo outlined measures it was taking to protect guests against Covid-19, including installing sanitisation stations throughout the resort, axing group snow sport lessons and increasing the cleaning of chairlifts and rental equipment.
But Antone said â€œitâ€™s going to be hard to keep everyone distancing and safeâ€.
â€œA lot of young people think they are invincible,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a full party scene down here with that particular age group.â€
Mark, the owner of P.D. Murphy Cafe in Cooma, said he was especially concerned about tourists travelling from Melbourne, where large outbreaks have caused a spike in the stateâ€™s Covid-19 cases.
â€œItâ€™s a double-edged sword: yes we have been flattened by coronavirus but do we also need an outbreak in Cooma or the surrounding district?â€ Mark said, adding that he suspected a large portion of the townâ€™s businesses would have to close up shop in the event of a local outbreak.
â€œItâ€™s easy for [NSW deputy premier] John Barilaro to say there are testing facilities in town, but itâ€™s a bit late if someone has already come through with the virus.â€
Antone said he was worried that more Melbourne residents could be looking to hit the slopes in NSW if Victoriaâ€™s tightening of coronavirus restrictions limited their ability to holiday intrastate.
In the past week, Victoria delayed the relaxation of its lockdown laws, tightened the number of guests allowed inside the home to five and restricted public gatherings to a maximum of 10.
Antone said locals were being placed in an impossible situation.
â€œWe could just lock up the village and keep everyone in, but I understand that we need the business and the money.
â€œWhat do you choose: the health or the business?â€
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has advised against travel to and from the Hume, Moreland, Darebin, Cardinia and Casey local government areas around Melbourne, as the state government considers making the advice a legally enforceable restriction.
Most ski resorts and accommodation are operating at only 50% capacity, in line with social distancing requirements.
Perisher, which is releasing tickets in batches, has already also sold all available lift passes until 13 July. Perisherâ€™s website reportedly crashed on Tuesday night as hopefuls tried to buy tickets before the resortâ€™s opening day.
Thredbo previously reported around 25,000 people were on its website to pre-purchase tickets, which have already sold out until the end of August. Some visitors sat in Thredboâ€™s online queue for up to 24 hours, AAP reported.
In Victoria, two major snow destinations have further delayed the opening of their ski lifts to accommodate coronavirus safety measures.
Mount Hotham and Falls Creek were set to open their lifts on Wednesday but will push it back to 6 July â€œdue to challenging early-season conditionsâ€, global resort operator Vail Resorts says in a statement.
â€œThe delay is to ensure that Hotham and Falls Creek can open enough terrain to provide a safe experience in accordance with the COVID-19 Safe Operating Plan.â€
Full refunds will be issued by Vail Resorts on all lift, lesson and rental purchases that have been made for Mt Hotham and Falls Creek for the period 24 June to 5 July.