Bowen-first measures introduced in backpacker accommodations

A BOWEN backpacker accommodation organiser has reassured the community that strict and patrolled measures are in place, and said he believes more is being done to monitor backpacker health than the general public.

The reassurance comes off the back of Bowen's horticultural leaders, who rely on backpackers during the picking season, who said stringent measures are being introduced to protect not only backpackers and farmers, but the wider community.

It was also announced over the weekend that strict new measures, including a forced 14-day isolation would be enforced for all travelling workers.

Harbourside Homestay owner Alan Bryson said he understood the community was "worried and tense", but people would be "surprised to hear" the amount of measures that had been introduced.

He said while he couldn't speak on behalf of all accommodation providers, daily professional cleaning, separation and police checks and daily temperature recordings was just some of the measures introduced already.

"I can assure the community they should have more worry about families at the shops than they should about backpackers," he said.

"Before the coronavirus situation broke out I already had a reputation by word-of-mouth and the Harvest Trail for a clean and organised accommodation.

"Since then, we've ramped up that level of cleaning and disinfecting even more. The greater frequency of cleaning means we can keep an eye on everything as well.

"We've also gone to the lengths of temperature checking every backpacker who stays with us, as temperature is one of the first signs of potentially having the virus."

Mr Bryson said there was a maximum of two people to a room, and social distancing now being strictly enforced outside of the accommodation.

"I feel a little sorry for the police, but we've got them coming through twice a day to check everything is okay and being abided to," he said.

"In talking to the police, they said there were some concerns about groups walking around in groups of about five, but the police have helped that stop and accommodation providers have drilled it into the backpackers they have with them."

This year has also seen Mr Bryson change who he accepts, with self-imposed guidelines to minimise the risk to the community.

He has employed a staggered approach to bringing backpackers to Bowen, waiting until jobs come up to avoid overcrowding and 'bored people who might do the wrong thing'. He is also only employing second-year backpackers who have spent the majority of their time recently in Queensland.

"My business is accommodation and if it's not ran properly, I don't have a business and then farmers won't have a business without workers," he said.

"It's about everyone working together. These backpackers know it'll be different this year than previous years, but we have to do these kinds of things to make everyone safe.

"I know the community worries, but farmers need workers because without them, trust me we'd see a very different Bowen for a much longer time."


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