As Australia gradually emerges from its successful coronavirus lockdown, government priorities have been set. One of those began Friday with the urgent dispatch of beer kegs to remote outback pubs.
“I understand there’s a whole bunch of kegs on their way to Darwin as we speak, running up the highway — much eagerly anticipated, I’m sure,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told media in Canberra announcing the move, AFP reports.
On Thursday, Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner welcomed the first shipment of 40,000 gallons of “the good stuff” with the promise of more to come.
“The beers are here and the jobs are back,” Gunner said at a press conference surrounded by some freshly delivered cases of the amber nectar.
Beer drinkers in the outback like the rest of Australia will have much to toast.
Chinese coronavirus cases in the nation have slowed in past weeks, with close to 7,000 confirmed cases and 97 deaths connected to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Australia effectively shuttered its border from February 1 when the government said it would bar non-citizens arriving from mainland China from entering the country until further notice.
This was broadened in March to all entry from anywhere else in the world bar returning Australian citizens who were sent into an obligatory tw0-week quarantine on arrival back home – no exceptions.
Morrison said then only “Australian citizens, Australian residents, dependents, legal guardians or spouses” would be permitted to cross the border.
That tough line worked so well that Australia is now well advanced on re-opening its economy, with more beer being top of the list.
The beer market has dipped 20 percent since the lockdown with the loss of keg sales hitting brewers and pubs hard, said Lion Beer Australia — one of the largest brewers in a country that has never sought to hide its love of beer.
“March 23 was the most devastating and soul-destroying day our industry has ever experienced,” the firm’s Managing Director James Brindley said of the day pubs and restaurants across Australia were ordered closed as part of sweeping lockdown restrictions.
“For many of us being able to get back to the local and have a beer with our mates is the morale boost that we’ve all been waiting for,” he said.
This is not the first time the Australian government has officially designated beer an essential to modern life.
During the devastating bushfires in January, the Royal Australian Navy was applauded after one of its ships completed an emergency beer run to help resupply a pub besieged by a deadly conflagration.
As Breitbart News reported, that emergency sea run included 20 kegs and four pallets of beer and cider for a town with a population of around 1,000.
“A pub with no beer is bad enough at the best of times,” said Carlton and United Breweries CEO Peter Filipovic. “After what Mallacoota residents and firies have been through the least we could do is make sure they could enjoy a beer.”
“We’re not sure if the Navy has ever shipped beer to civilians before but these fires are an extraordinary disaster,” he added.
AFP contributed to this report.