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08 April 2020
By DYLAN DE JONG
Gregor Lang, a 25-year-old business engineering student from Mulhouse in eastern France, believes staying in Halls Gap is his safest option during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Lang is among many thousands of backpackers and temporary workers who are stuck in Australia, with international flights halting.
He moved to Melbourne in January this year to complete an internship on his working holiday visa, where he was staying with a family in Deer Park.
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At the same time the COVID-19 pandemic was closing Australia’s borders to foreigners, Mr Lang found himself having to make a quick decision about where to go.
After speaking to his family back in France – a current hot-spot for the virus – his parents agreed staying in Australia was his safest option.
Mr Lang said returning to Halls Gap to Tim’s Place Backpacker Hostel, where he was on a camping trip just three weeks prior, was his best option.
“I discovered Tim’s Place by chance,” he said.
“I decided to move to an area that was less populated – this is perfect for me, out in nature.
“I was staying with a family in Melbourne, I had to make a difficult decision. They were more at risk with me being there, I couldn’t stay with them any longer – so I decided to move out here.”
Mr Lang said it was alarming hearing from friends and family about the situation back home in France, with more than 55,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“It’s really bad in Mulhouse at the moment,” he said.
“It’s quite frightening, having friends and family there. I have escaped those conditions but it’s still very real for me. I’m calling friends and family all the time to follow up on the situation – it is horrible how things are progressing there.”
He said French Government lockdown measures were much tougher than Australia’s.
“My friends say it’s quite difficult in France, just to go out you have to fill out a special form including your address, the time you leave and where you’re going,” he said.
“You must only travel in a radius of one kilometre around your house just for food or medical reasons.
“My parents have a house, so they are lucky. They’re a bit older, they are retired – in the population that is at risk. They are isolating at home now.”
Mr Lang said he would continue his internship in self-isolation at the hostel, where he was staying with operator Tim Walsh and a German student.
“For me now I’m staying positive,” he said.
“Tim has really taken great precautions for coronavirus – he has transformed every room into a single room, so people can stay isolated.
“It’s not a problem for me to work from home. My internship ends at the end of July, so I will stay till mid-August, but things could change.
“I’m always thinking about my family. I miss everybody, but I’m always only a few seconds away from seeing their face through my phone.”
While other hostels were closing down in Halls Gap, Mr Walsh said he was only offering single rooms to help people find a place to stay where it was possible to follow social-distancing measures.
“I decided to shut it down over the past week and I’ve transitioned from a very busy hostel to just having two people here on a long-term basis,” he said.
“I stopped dorm rooms and dropped my price from $60 to $30 a night with only single room options.
“The industry has been good to me and I’ve got the facilities here that are great for short-term or long-term stays.”
Mr Walsh said it was crucial people had the ability to self-isolate in their accommodation.
“For international people at the moment, there’s no planes even if they wanted to go back home – I just took it upon myself as a moral obligation to provide a safe environment,” he said,
“To me it’s a real concern in the cities. If you’ve got lots of people in a hostel, how do you keep personal hygiene, personal space and adhere to the regulations?
“My guests both realised Halls Gap is a much better environment and much safer for them with their own room and space and very high standards of hygiene.”
The entire April 8, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!