While no cases of the deadly coronavirus have been confirmed in the southwest, the pandemic is having massive impacts on the local economy.
While no cases of the deadly coronavirus have been confirmed in the southwest, the pandemic is having massive impacts on the local economy.

Staff layoffs and empty pockets: COVID-19 hits Roma

"WE WILL hang in there" - that's the message Roma Chamber of Commerce President Cyril Peet has continued to repeat as businesses throughout the town shut their doors and lay off staff in response to the coronavirus shutdown.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been felt in the Maranoa business community, despite no cases as of yet being confirmed in the southwest.

State and federal enforced social distancing rules have meant changes to the way rural towns operate, and Mr Peet said you need to only look down McDowall St on the weekend to realise the impact it has had on Roma.

While the number of job losses and business closures have yet to be tallied, Mr Peet said he had spoken to many businesses who had made the choice to close.

"I have spoken to a few businesses who have a few weeks of work left, and some other have had to lay everyone off," he said.

"The pubs, cafes and bakery all seem to be hanging in there, but it will be interesting to see how long they are able to stay open.

"Takeaway is still on offer, but if people aren't making money … there's no money to spend in our local businesses."

Mr Peet said some businesses had made the decision to close their doors, including main street icons like Loot, Gretel Lane and Country Buds Fashion & Accessories. 

"Teacups is still open, they've got measures in place to limit the number of people in the store," Mr Peet said.

"Rex Furnitures and Ace Drapes are both still open, they'll never close.

"Everyone is just being forced to go with the flow. That's all we can do.

"We are used to droughts and floods, we're sued to working under difficulties, we just deal with it and get on with it.

"This is definitely a different situation to anything we've faced before, but we're a tough bunch out here."

Mandy Watson, owner of Amanda's Choice said she will 'keep poking along' unless she is forced to close the doors. 

"I am trying to do the best I can to stay open," she said. 

"I've got continual sales happening - $10 racks and half price racks.

"And I'm offering delivery throughout Roma or postage."

Commerce Roma and Visit Roma will this week meet to discuss a recovery contingency plan, in order to plan for the Maranoa's future once the pandemic passes.

"We will definitely come out of this the other side," Mr Peet said.

"We are resilient people, we're used to hardships. We need to plan for that other side."

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