Helicopters and police checkpoints will help enforce tough coronavirus travel restrictions this long weekend, as authorities warn that flouting the laws now could lead to dire consequences.
The toughest crackdown yet comes as figures show Australians are “flattening the curve” of new infections.
Australia has passed 6000 total coronavirus cases, with states and territories recording a combined 105 new cases on Wednesday. For some, the numbers of new infections were the lowest in weeks.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the new figures were “heartening” – but also had a warning.
“This, in many ways, is the most important weekend we may face in the whole course of the virus,” he said.
“This Easter is the time when any Australian can help save a life with their decisions, or inadvertently risk a life. This is the moment to lock in the gains, to stay at home, to protect other people – and if we do that, we give ourselves the best way through this.”
In NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian reminded residents they could not attend church or religious services this weekend – and also implored people to stay home.
“We cannot lift our foot off the pedal, we have to stay vigilant,” she said.
NSW had 39 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, its smallest increase since March 16. There are 31 coronavirus patients in intensive care.
In Victoria, police will launch their usual Easter blitz – with a different focus.
“We do anticipate fewer cars on our roads and we expect people to abide by the directions that have been put in place by the chief health officer,” Road Policing Command Assistant Commissioner Libby Murphy said.
She said police would enforce those directions, including ensuring people had left their homes only for the four approved reasons.
Victorian senator Sarah Henderson has urged police to focus on Great Ocean Road, demanding roadblocks to help keep out the crowds.
“Two weekends ago we saw a terrible situation where thousands of people headed down the Great Ocean Road – they weren’t following the rules,” she said.
Victoria had 16 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday – its lowest in several weeks. It has 12 patients in intensive care.
In Tasmania, Premier Peter Gutwein announced a statewide police blitz and an “effective lockdown” in the north-west.
“Today the gloves come off. We are going to police this. The period of education is over,” Mr Gutwein said.
“If you go to a shack and you don’t have a reasonable excuse to be there, you will be asked to leave. If you don’t, you will be summonsed and charged.
“Do not be surprised if you face the full front of the law over this weekend.”
Police would also use helicopters to spot people travelling unnecessarily, Mr Gutwein said.
Fines of up to $16,800 or six months’ jail apply for those who break the law.
Tasmania has 23 virus cases linked to the North West Regional Hospital or North West Private Hospital in Burnie.
Nine new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Tasmania on Wednesday night, taking the state’s tally to 107.
Queensland will tighten its already tough restrictions, requiring anyone trying to cross into the state to have a border pass from midnight Friday.
The state will also require residents returning from coronavirus hotspots, such as greater Sydney, to go into quarantine for 14 days.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged Queensland residents to stay at home.
“This is no time to be travelling past the border and there is a real risk that you pose, not only to yourself and your family, but to other Queenslanders,” she said.
“This is not the time to go into NSW.”
In Western Australia, police will clampdown on crowds visiting Perth’s beaches.
Deputy Commissioner Gary Dreibergs said too many people were simply lying around socialising on the coast.
“If you want to go to the beach, go, have a swim, pack up your towel, go back to your car, head home,” Mr Dreibergs told 6PR radio.
He said police would heavily patrol beaches as WA enjoyed warm weather. Temperatures in Perth are forecast to peak about 36 degrees on Good Friday.
WA Police commissioner Chris Dawson said authorities didn’t want to discourage people from exercising.
“I think that’s a good thing,” Mr Dawson said.
“What we are saying is ‘don’t drive away from your home on holidays’.”