Coronavirus shuts city

Geelong local Maria Kalimnakrs out on her morning walk on Tuesday. (Rebecca Hosking) 206898

By Luke Voogt

City Hall has closed hundreds of public facilities in line with departmental directions to prevent all “non-essential” activity and slow the spread of COVID-19.

The closures include City-managed golf courses, tennis courts, equestrian centres, community halls, exercise equipment, lawn bowls centres, public barbeques and drinking fountains.

The closures complied with directives from Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Annaliese van Diemen, City Hall announced today.

The move followed the City on Wednesday announcing the closure of Eastern Beach and more than 320 playgrounds, skate parks and bike facilities

Those closures came into effect yesterday as part of a nationwide ‘stage two’ shutdown as federal government sought to limit social gatherings to 10 people.

City Hall on Wednesday also announced the closure of Breamlea Caravan Park.

Long-term residents, and people staying at the caravan park while their primary residence is unavailable, could remain there, according to the City.

Central Geelong was a ghost town this week with most people staying at home and only going out for essential supplies to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We all have a role to play in minimising the spread of the virus and doing what we can to protect the community,” Geelong Mayor Stephanie Asher said.

“It is vital that people comply with the restrictions set out by the federal and state governments. Social distancing will save lives.

“Keeping at least 1.5 metres away from others is the best chance we have to keep you, your family and the wider community safe.”

On Tuesday night, council voted for a $3.2 million package to help the community and businesses through the pandemic.

The initiatives included waiving fees for community and sporting groups using city-owned lands for six months, beginning March 1.

City Hall will also refund alfresco dining and A frame permit fees for 12 months, and food and health premises fees for three months of the 2019-20 financial year.

Casual on and off-street parking will be free in central Geelong until June 30.

City Hall estimated the free parking initiative would cost about $2 million, based on last year’s data.

Today the City also announced a “fast-tracked” a Business Support Package for local businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We recognise that this is an incredibly difficult time and everyone is experiencing the anxiety of an uncertain future,” Cr Asher said.

“We are moving really quickly to deliver immediate support in recognition that it is needed right now.”

Businesses can access the support package via the Geelong business concierge service on 5272 5272 or online at www.geelongaustralia.com.au/covid19.

City Hall chief executive officer Martin Cutter said council would continue to provide essential services plus any other services possible to deliver under the latest health guidelines.

“We are delivering as much as we can, provided we adhere to the rules.”

The essential services included care for the elderly, park maintenance and waste and recycling, Mr Cutter said.

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