‘Virus refugee’ fears as Victorians flock to NSW resort town


Victorians are among hundreds of people flocking to popular resort town Byron Bay, sending Twitter crazy with fears of “virus refugees” infecting NSW with a second wave.

With Victorian and Queensland school holidays beginning this week and NSW starting its two-week period from next week, hundreds of tourists are driving and flying into Byron Bay.

On Twitter, users have exhorted Victorians to stay home in their own state and begged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to “close the border” to prevent Victoria’s virus spike from spreading.

After months of COVID-19 related downturn, the winter holidays in the town is shaping up as a “very busy period” with crowds next week comparable to the Christmas break period, the Visitor Centre told news.com.au.

With maximum temperatures in Melbourne dropping down to 12 degrees this week, Byron’s 18-20 degree average is balmy by comparison.

The planned getaways by Victorians to Byron has, on social media at least, has sparked fear and derision about Victoria’s unfortunate second wave of coronavirus infections.

One Twitter user posted that “it’s happening now … driving on the Pacific Highway” she had “passed dozens of Victorian Grey nomads & families heading nth with caravans”.

Another woman posted: “Why are Victorians holidaying in other states? Why are hundreds of them flying into Byron?

“Please stay home everyone, in all states. If you need a holiday, have one in your own state.”

Another wrote: “Byron Bay full of Victorians! Clearly the disdain levied at the beautiful state of NSW mostly from people in VIC is misguided bcos the numbers speak volumes.”

She then tweeted again that Byron was “packed with Victorians”, that “Gladys remains unbothered” and begged the premier to “close the border”.

This was despite the premier herself issuing a stern warning about Victorian visitors to NSW.

“Do not allow anyone from a hot spot in Melbourne or from greater Melbourne to come into your home,” Ms Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

“You have the right to say no. Please, if you are a loved one, a friend or a family member, please don’t come up at this time until the community transmission is under control.”

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On Twitter, a user seemed to echo the premier’s sentiments, tweeting that “it would be tragic to throw all the hard work and gains away”.

“Victorians are flooding into NSW for school holidays and Byron area is a popular destination. Sadly people are getting complacent, greedy and selfish.”

Another tweeted: “Hundreds of Queenslanders are crisscrossing the border into Northern NSW while as many Victorians are flying into the same area Byron Bay.

“It’s going to spread like the #Morrisonfires.”

The fact that Queenslanders are also heading to Byron had one Twitter user up in arms that they would be infected by the Victorians and bring it over the border back home.

One Twitter user said of Queensland’s plan to reopen the border that it “would be reckless to open early with such an increase in community transmission in other States.

“Queensland can be safe like New Zealand, or reopen to early like Texas, Arizona etc.

“It takes about 5 weeks to see how bad it is.

“NSW is getting large visitors from Vic now. Not good.”

Mick Webb, who runs Byron Bay’s Visitor Centre told news.com.au Victorians were among the tourists flocking into town in a much-needed boost to the starved tourist economy.

“But it’s not like a tidal wave influx,” he said.

“There are definitely Victorians who are travelling here, but there are people from … Queensland and NSW.”

Byron Bay shire has a population of around 30,000 which swells annually by a total of around 200,000 over all the holidays including Christmas-New Year and the Byron Bay Blues Festival, its busiest periods.

Byron Bay has about 2000 hotel and motel rooms and hundreds of Airbnb rooms and flats as demand had “gone through the roof” in recent years, Mr Webb said.

He said the local tourism industry was keen to get moving again after a “dire’ time in lockdown with this school holiday period, short getaways in August and the Spring school holidays in September and October.

He said all COVID-19 social distancing precautions were in place and “the last thing people want is to get smoked back into their hives”.

While a large proportion of the tourist influx came by road, others flew into the town of Ballina, just a 25 minute drive from Byron Bay.

Pelican Airways has announced a new direct flight from Canberra To Byron, which will begin in the next few weeks.



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