Both state and federal officials have said in no uncertain terms that this Easter's long weekend will not be business as usual. In a press conference on Tuesday, April 7, prime minister Scott Morrison urged Australians to "stay at home”, or else risk undoing "everything we have achieved so far together."
The four-day holiday is a popular time for city folk to enjoy a rural escape. However, with the vast majority of Covid-19 cases still largely centralised in major cities, there are fears that an influx of regional tourism may spread the disease to remote communities across the country.
But if you’re still not sure whether you should be rethinking your weekend getaway, we’ve answered some of the most pressing questions on the lips of would-be holidayers.
Can I visit my relatives in regional areas?
Unfortunately not, especially if those relatives are elderly or have existing medical conditions that could be aggravated by the coronavirus. While you may feel fine and those in your household may be symptom-free, the issue of community transmission from asymptomatic cases is fast becoming the greatest challenge of Australia’s Covid-19 response. The only surefire way to combat community transmission is by exercising physical distancing rules and staying home.
What you can do instead: Line up a family video chat. There are many great video conferencing platforms available, such as Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype, so you can stay connected to your dearest even then they’re not your nearest.
Can I go and stay at my holiday property?
No. It may seem extreme, but even travelling to a private residence is being discouraged, unless it’s for an essential purpose, such as urgent maintenance. Again, the issue of community transmission is the main sticking point. The coronavirus can survive on surfaces for hours or even days, so a quick pit stop for a coffee on the way could inadvertently spread the disease, even if you’re being careful about physical distancing. Staying at your primary residence is the only sure way to prevent this.
What you can do instead: It may not be quite as satisfying as the real thing, but a bit of armchair tourism can be a handy way to satisfy your wanderlust while remaining socially responsible. Here are some great exotic destinations you can visit without ever leaving your living room.
What if I’ve already made a holiday or AirBnB reservation?
Annoying as it may be, an existing booking does not qualify as an essential reason for travel. It’s been a tough time for the tourism sector, both during the Covid crisis and the devastating bushfire season, and cancellations and a drop in trade have impacted many regional businesses. However, right now the best way to support those businesses is to follow government guidelines on travel restrictions, so the country can overcome the Covid-19 crisis as quickly as possible.
What you can do instead: Speak to your hotel or AirBnB provider about deferring your booking or getting credit, rather than cancelling outright. Hosts and hoteliers have been encouraged by the government to be more flexible about their usual cancellation policies, and many are now happy to agree to other arrangements that will guarantee guests return after the pandemic has passed.
What happens if I choose to travel anyway?
State police across the country have been given special powers to enforce penalties for anyone not following the government’s containment rules. If you are found to be heading out of the city for a getaway this weekend, you could be turned around and issued a $1,000 fine. Tackling community transmission is something authorities, both federal and state, are approaching aggressively. The best way to avoid being stung by hefty fines is to remain in your primary residence and avoid regional travel.
What you can do instead: You can choose not to travel. Losing some of the freedoms we usually enjoy may seem overly severe but unless we all play our part and abide by the regulations, this unprecedented crisis may draw on far longer. Not travelling now is the best way to ensure you can travel again in the near future.
What if I'm still unsure if I should travel?
If you're asking if you should, the answer is probably that you shouldn't. There have been encouraging signs that the country's response to the Covid-19 outbreak is beginning to have a positive impact on the spread of this deadly disease. But this progress is fragile, and without us sticking to the rules, as frustrating as they may be, the period of time we may have to live under lockdown conditions could last months more than it otherwise might.
So stay home, support local businesses by ordering takeaway, stay in touch with loved ones digitally, explore the world virtually from your living room, and be part Australia's speedy recovery.