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Falls Creek and Mt Hotham close lifts as Victorian snow industry is dealt a chilling COVID-19 blow

By Mikaela Ortolan and Rhiannon Tuffield, Friday July 10, 2020 - 17:10 EST

 ABC image
Mt Buller ski resort will stay open, but the news is not so good for Mt Hotham and Falls Creek, where ski lifts will close for at least the month of July. - ABC 

Victoria's coronavirus crisis has brought the state's $800 million snow season to its knees, dealing yet another staggering blow to the tourism industry.



Ski lifts at Mt Hotham and Falls Creek will not operate until at least August as a result of Melbourne's six-week shutdown and a block on interstate travellers.

It comes after a horror economic period for Victoria's north-east, plagued by the summer bushfires and ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

Mount Hotham Chamber of Commerce president Steve Belli said it was a massive blow.

"It's certainly going to be one for the history books," he said.

"Everyone's still reeling from the news and a lot of people have lost their jobs over it."

In a statement Mt Buller confirmed it would continue lift operations ensuring access to the ski area and lessons.

Resorts only one week into season

The owner of Mt Hotham and Falls Creek Vail Resorts made the decision in line with the current stay at home directions for Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.

All reservations for lift tickets, ski and ride lessons and rental booking will be cancelled and fully refunded.

It comes just a month after the this year despite the pandemic.



The resorts, which , were already operating under strict social distancing and had a limit on visitor numbers.

Vail Resorts chief executive Pete Brulisauer said his decision was not easy.

"We know our employees, guests and the communities where we operate have already endured so much hardship this year," he said.

"However, we are focused first and foremost on health and safety, following local health guidelines and doing our part to support efforts across Victoria."



Mount Buller resort chief executive Mark Bennetts said his resort would maintain a rigorous safety protocol in order to stay open.

"This year has been incredibly tough on our community," Mr Bennetts said.

"But we remain committed and determined in the face of this latest challenge to support the local people and those in our region who rely on tourism," he said.

People living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire must follow the changed restrictions and stay home. 

Those with bookings will be eligible for refunds and changes.

Economy reeling from pandemic

The Mount Hotham Chamber hopes to rally businesses together to see what else can be offered this season based on the resorts staying open and possible lift opening later in the season.

But Mr Belli said the financial damage would be irreparable.

"On top of the bushfires and the restrictions we had in place to start with this has just topped it all off unfortunately," he said. 

"When you miss out on school holidays that's a pretty big blow to most operators because it's the busiest time of the season."

Strange that Mt Buller remains open which is closer to Melbourne.

Australia approves 'wonder drug' Remdesivir as the first COVID-19 treatment to be used on severe cases of the deadly illness

The US-made drug - the only one globally to get approval to treat COVID-19 since the pandemic began - has been given provisional approval to use in hospitalised patients with severe coronavirus.

 

Australia is to slash international flights into the country by HALF and some residents will be forced to fork out for their own hotel quarantine

 

The number of flights into Australia will be reduced by half, the Scott Morrison said today. 

 

“The reality is Perth and WA are the envy of the world for those West Australians that have been stuck overseas for whatever reason, the desire to come home is now obviously stronger than ever.”

The up-tick has led to international arrivals to Perth Airport being capped at 525 people a week. New South Wales – which bears the brunt of most returning Australians – recently imposed a similar cap of 450 people a day.

Health Minister Roger Cook said the limit, expected to be in place by next week, would help control the number of Australians in Perth quarantine, with 245 due to arrive on two international flights on Tuesday alone.

In contrast, 450 overseas residents returned to Perth in the space of a week in late May, according to the Australia Border Force.

Returning travellers will soon have to pay for their own 14-day hotel quarantine, valued at $2500, with WA spending upwards of $15 million so far accommodating more than 6000 repatriated Australians in Perth hotels.

Authorities are also seeking to stem the flow of interstate travellers flying into WA.

Exemption categories to cross the border will be tightened up to reduce those allowed into the state.

Currently restrictions only allow for essential workers, government officials, and fly-in, fly-out workers to enter WA. There are also two wide-reaching categories being 'compassionate grounds' and 'those otherwise seeking exemption approval’.

In the first six days of July, 45 interstate flights arrived in Perth, 13 from coronavirus hotspot Melbourne.

Qantas and Virgin declined to comment on how many passengers were on the flights, citing commercial confidence.

From midnight Wednesday, Melburnians will be placed back into a six-week lockdown due to a surge in cases, which is expected to impact flights out of the capital city.

WA Police were unable to provide figures on how many people had entered WA through the interstate border since it closed.

To the end of May, it was nearly 21,000, while more than 18,000 West Australians have returned home from overseas to the end of June.

Around 137 of the state’s 621 positive coronavirus cases have been detected in hotel quarantine.

There are currently around 1100 people completing their 14-day hotel quarantine across five Perth hotels.

Hope other states escape the levels of community transmission seen in Victoria, but as borders and businesses open up around the country, I fear it may happen elsewhere.

I didn't realize there were still people going on cruises, two seem to have returned to Perth and are two new cases! 

The Health Department has reported four coronavirus cases this morning — two of which are new and have presented in travellers who recently returned from overseas and are currently in hotel quarantine.

The remaining two are historical cases that emerged after testing. Both are linked to cruise ship travel.

 

There are currently 21 active COVID-19 cases in WA, all of whom are in hotel quarantine.

To date, 604 people have recovered from the virus in the State.

Yesterday, 429 West Australians presented to COVID-19 clinics, with 410 assessed and 407 swabbed.

It comes as Victoria records 216 new cases today, bringing the number of active cases in the State to 1249.

Among the new cases are 30 that have been linked to outbreaks, while a further 186 are being investigated.

There are currently 49 people with COVID-19 in Victorian hospitals.

One patient, a man in his 90s, died overnight, bringing Victoria’s COVID-19 death toll to 23.

The total number of cases recorded in Victoria since the pandemic began is 3560.

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