Heather McNab and Tiffany Turnbull
(Australian Associated Press)
Would-be holidaymakers are being urged to stay at home and not travel to Australia’s regions during the coronavirus pandemic.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller on Tuesday said people should be in lockdown “wherever you live”.
“Whatever your primary home is – that’s where we want you to stay,” Mr Fuller told reporters in Sydney.
“Our health system is based on where our population is spread, we have big hospitals and small hospitals.
“If everybody floods the south coast and north coast, and the virus spreads, the health system is not designed to manage that.”
Mr Fuller said locals in regional areas were worried about city dwellers moving into their communities.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro believes the safest course of action is for people to stay in their own communities.
“Now is not the time to travel from metropolitan areas to regional NSW for a holiday, for meetings, or even to relocate yourselves for a longer period,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
Of particular concern is that city residents may use the Easter break to relocate, which would be very dangerous for rural and remote communities.
Bega Valley Shire mayor Kristy McBain says the region had been trying to draw tourists back following the summer bushfires.
But now with the latest health crisis “we are actually telling people to stay away again”.
“People are coming here trying to get away from more populated areas and potentially exposing already under-pressure communities to a virus we don’t have the capability or the medical equipment to deal with,” Ms McBain told AAP.
Simon Richardson, mayor of Byron Shire Council on NSW’s far north coast, says Australia needs to learn from Spain’s mistakes and stop migration between metropolitan and regional areas.
“One of the biggest reasons for growth in the virus spread was the migration from metropolitan areas to regional areas so we’ve got to try and stop people coming here as an escape,” Mr Richardson told AAP.
“We love our visitors. We love having them – but just not now.”
Mr Richardson also wants NSW to close its borders like Queensland to discourage day-trippers.
“Property owners are promoting their properties in Byron as self-isolation retreats. We’ve just got to stop all of this opportunism,” he said.
“We’ve got to pull in the welcome mat and just bunker down as a community.”
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein has urged visitors to leave his island state.
“I’m sorry to say that, but go home,” Mr Gutwein said last week.
“We’re built on tourism so it hurts me to say that – but do not come and put Tasmanians at risk.”
Margaret O’Rourke, the mayor of Bendigo in central Victoria, is another leader asking people to limit their travel.
“Some of the resources of our health professionals are already stretched and would be further stretched if people from other locations come to our community and then end up being sick,” Ms O’Rourke told AAP this week.
“I don’t think we can reiterate it enough, the best thing for people to do is to stay at home, where they come from and limit their travel.”