Typically, the Easter break is a popular time for family gatherings, picnics in the park or enjoying a short weekend getaway in another town. However this year, the threat of the coronavirus has forced us all to rethink our Easter plans.
If you’re wondering if you can still enjoy a sneaky getaway this long weekend or visit friends and family in other towns, unfortunately, the answer is no.
“People should not be going away for Easter holidays,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an address last week. “People should not be getting in their cars and going to other places.”
“Australians should stay at home this Easter and not undertake holiday travel.
“Failure to do so this weekend would completely undo everything we have achieved so far together,” Morrison added, while referring to incidences in other countries where events or holiday periods have been the spark for significant outbreaks of the virus.
The government’s advice is to limit unnecessary travel, maintain social distancing and stay home in your principal place of residence – meaning holiday homes are off-limits. If you are an accommodation operator, you should no longer be welcoming visitors.
Movements around your local area must also only be for essential reasons such as going to work (if you can’t work from home), going food shopping, exercising or visiting the pharmacy. Any public gatherings remain limited to two people.
The message that we all need to stay put is also relevant to any visitors and backpackers currently in Australia, who may have been thinking of travelling to popular destinations along the coast.
State leaders have also made statements showcasing they have a united stance when it comes to stopping Easter travel.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “A lot of us had our hearts sold on going on holidays or doing something we’d normally do at Easter, and we can’t this year. None of us can travel, none of us can go on holidays.”
“Anyone in NSW who leaves their house without a ‘reasonable excuse’ could spend up to six months in prison and face a fine of up to $11,000 under the emergency ministerial directive,” added NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson.
Queensland’s police commissioner Katarina Carroll says beaches would be “heavily patrolled” by police and people may be fined for blatantly just being out and about or going for a drive as this is clearly non-essential travel.
Queensland have also closed their borders, following in the footsteps of Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania.
In South Australia, Premier Steven Marshall says travel over the Easter break is “completely and utterly off”.
“As we see the number of new infections stabilise, I don’t want anybody to think we can relax the restrictions,” he said.
Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said: “I know that will be very painful for people to not be together with parents and grandparents. But this is a matter of life and death.”
This weekend, you should expect to see a stronger presence of police enforcing these rules. Depending on the state, the maximum penalty for breaching the rules is $11,000, six months in prison, or both. However, police can, and have already started to, issue on-the-spot fines of $1,000.