Grey nomads may be venturing back into country areas with a degree more confidence as the Omicron wave plateaus in many areas … but the rural economy is still doing it tough.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a general reluctance to be ‘out and about’ too much, and many businesses are suffering due to the ‘shadow lockdown’.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar believes, from an economic standpoint, this is the toughest period rural business has endured since the start of the pandemic.
“We’ve seen customers taking a more cautious approach so, in many cases, it’s been like a shadow lockdown now for a number of weeks,” he told the ABC. “We have to hope that, as that pressure comes off now, people will return to the towns, be more confident about getting out and going back to the shops … being prepared to go to a restaurant or cafe.”
The Chair of the Australian Medical Association’s Council of Rural Doctors, Marco Giuseppin, agreed that people were being extra cautious.
“It’s a bit of a mood of anticipation and maybe a bit of trepidation about what, perhaps, a major outbreak might mean for their community,” Dr Giuseppin, who is based in Mount Isa in north-west Queensland, told the ABC. ”There’s a fear in the background that they may put a strain on their health system and it’s not something that they’re keen to do.”
Andrew Cooper, who owns a clothing store in Warwick, west of Brisbane says people are still wary due to the risks of catching Omicron.
“There’s no browsing, it’s into the shops, get their groceries, go home,” Mr Coper told the ABC. “You can just tell they’ve got a different focus on where they’ve got to be, what they’ve got to do, and they just get home.”