The Easter long weekend in Australia has come, and with it you may be wondering if you can still follow your yearly travel traditions.
The simple answer: probably not.
Police have said that they will not be hesitating to issue massive fines for those breaking the rules, especially during the long weekend.
Investigative measures for rule-breakers may include, but are not limited to: roadside checks, CCTV monitoring, reports from COVID-19 crime lines, and number plate recognition. This will mostly take place on busy roads or motorways.
Both fines and restrictions for what you can and cannot do in regard to travel differ between states. For fines, the following apply:
- QLD: $1,300
- NSW: $1,000
- VICTORIA: $1,600
Everyone within a vehicle will be individually fined, not just the driver.
These fines may apply to you if you are found to be leaving your place of residence without a reasonable excuse covering the following guildlines:
- Obtaining food or other goods.
- Work or education (if this can’t be conducted from home).
- Medical or caring reasons.
So, no, you can’t go out for a take-away coffee and a chat with your friend. You can’t drive around for the sake of driving, and you can’t visit your holiday home on the coast.
In NSW, ACT, and WA, drivers are facing double demerits for any traffic offences over the long weekend.
Don’t worry, though. Officials aren’t exempt from the travel restrictions, either. NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin was brought back from his Central Coast holiday home and fined $1,000 for non-essential travel by NSW police.
In response to the situation, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller stated:
“Police have been given these powers to ensure the community spread of COVID-19 – which we know is devastating communities across the globe – is minimised. You only need to look at the statistics to see that people are dying where appropriate measures have either not been established or are ignored.”
“No one individual or corporation is above these laws,” Fuller continued. “Anyone suspected of breaching the orders will be investigated and if a breach is detected, they will be dealt with in accordance with the act.”
Due to these sometimes-vague restrictions changing daily, people have been having difficulty keeping up with them – including police officers – and incorrect interpretations have been getting made regarding what is and is not allowed. See how seemingly-simple rule-breaking has been at the receiving end of massive fines:
- Three people who did not all live within the same household were fined for playing video games in the same room in Victoria.
- Five young people were fined for throwing a party in a hotel room in QLD.
- A man was fined for sitting on a bench while he ate a kebab in NSW.
If you do plan on driving for an essential reason, be aware that you can only travel with one other person other than those living in the same household as you in ACT, NT, and QLD.
If you plan on commencing Easter celebrations and bringing over company, make sure you have covered visitor rules in your state. If you are able to have up to two visitors, make sure to still comply with distancing restrictions.
Over the last fortnight in Victoria alone, a crime reporting line had 22,500 COVID-19 related cases, where neighbours had been concerned about people they had seen ignoring the new social distancing restrictions. Of those 22,500 calls, 3,600 were regarding mass gatherings outside of the new guidelines.
QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczvk covered reasons you may be allowed to leave your home on Twitter:
ICYMI: Stay at home as much as you can. Only go out for essential reasons and limit people visiting your household to a maximum of two. @QldPolice #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/63itqrdk8b
— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) April 9, 2020
If you are not leaving your house for any of the above reasons, it is best, not only for the avoidance of the massive fines, but for the greater good of your community to spend your Easter weekend and the forceable months ahead in the comfort of your own home. The faster everyone complies, the quicker we can enjoy the world again!
Safety now, travel later.