As you are aware due to COVID-19, a Public Health Order has been restricting access to the island and requiring quarantine for those arriving since 22 March. The Order expires on Thursday 18 June.
Clarity in regard to whether a new Public Health Order will be supported by NSW Health and signed by the Minister for Health and Medical Research has been sought for some time. Consultation with island residents and businesses, as well as seeking medical health advice in regard to the matter have all been undertaken. The Board resolved to request that a new Public Health Oder be enacted extending the access and quarantine restrictions until the beginning of August.
It is understood that the NSW Health assessment of the request was that they believe there is no health reason to delay the re-opening of the island given the extremely low number of COVID-19 cases or community transmission on the mainland, and that Australia’s international border continues to be closed. They have acknowledged other factors such as the fact that Lord Howe is entering its winter off peak season and that some businesses plan to be closed for the winter.
A new draft Public Health Order for Lord Howe that would extend restrictions was prepared by Parliamentary Counsel for consideration by the Minister. Unfortunately, it is not yet clear whether the Minister will sign the new Order or whether the island will effectively re-open this week.
As soon as advice is received, this will be communicated with Board Members, residents, LHI Tourism Association, business operators, air service providers and relevant stakeholders.
Your frustration arising from the uncertainty COVID-19 is creating is recognised. Every effort is being made to seek clarity to allow you to plan, communicate with family or visitors, and prepare your businesses.
At this stage, two scenarios exist. Either the island re-opens this week OR, it will not re-open until the beginning of August. If it re-opens this week, it will certainly be with very limited numbers. Additional flights are not yet scheduled, very few bookings exist and it would take some time for momentum to build.
Lord Howe Island Tourism Association has been communicating with members and are preparing information that business operators, booking agencies and others can use to respond to inquiries regarding re-opening.