‘Services will close’

PERTH council says it’s almost inevitable it will have to shut down some of its services as a result of Coronavirus.

It is also implementing a ban on anyone known to have been overseas from entering its administration centre.

On Tuesday the council held a special meeting to discuss its response to the virus, which has led to a wave of event cancellations across the city and staff lay-offs as streets empty of shoppers.

The council has invoked WA’s Emergency Management Act to appoint its community development manager Anne Banks-McAllister as an “incident director” to work with other agencies in implementing a Coronavirus action plan.

Infection curve

At the special meeting, Ms Banks-McAllister said the council’s response to the virus was aimed at “flattening the infection curve” so the state’s health system doesn’t get overloaded, while also protecting staff, ratepayers and visitors.

“The city’s primary focus is on protecting the health and safety of staff, visitors, residents and businesses – while maintaining essential services for as long as we can,” Ms Banks-McAllister said.

But she said a “significant” number of volunteers had already deserted council services.

“It is very likely some of those services will be closing in the future,” Ms Banks-McAllister said.

“With regards to events, that’s possibly one of the most significant impact on the city and its customers at the moment.”

Following prime minister Scott Morrison’s ban on indoor events with more than 100 people, or outdoor events of more than 500, there’s been a swag of cancellations including conferences, festivals such as Beerfest and Bunuru in Yagan Square, concerts including all WA Symphony Orchestra and WA Ballet performances, and markets including a new night noodle market in the Perth Cultural Centre.

Ms Banks-McAllister said the council was looking into how it could support event organisers to survive the shutdown.

Council meetings will stay open to the public for now, though ratepayers will be asked to think carefully about whether they need to attend and will be reminded with signs on the way in to follow strict sanitary practices.

At Tuesday’s meeting commissioners voted to look into extending the city’s free parking trial to help keep business afloat, while a tourism campaign aimed at convincing country folk to have a holiday in the city is also on the table, despite premier Mark McGowan dumping the state’s version, saying it was simply safer to stay at home.

Commissioner Len Kosova, urging the council to liaise closely with the business community, noted one of the more novel problems the response to the virus has created, as well as highlighting the heightened fear level in the community.

“Earlier today when buying a coffee a small business operator declined to accept my cash because they would prefer tap and go,” Commr Kosova said.

by STEVE GRANT

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