News National Coronavirus Easter travel debate: Politicians’ beach house attitudes muddle Easter holiday puzzle
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Coronavirus Easter travel debate: Politicians’ beach house attitudes muddle Easter holiday puzzle

Authorities have been repeatedly urging Australians to "stay home" – but that hasn't stopped some people going to their beach houses. Photo: AAP/Getty
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A politician who owns a Kangaroo Island holiday home has slammed the “them and us attitude” of some locals, as pressure mounts on people not to travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.

South Australian MP Frank Pangallo said “it isn’t illegal for people to visit their own property”, declaring “regardless I don’t have COVID-19”.

In response to concerns from island locals over whether he was planning to head to the island for Easter, Mr Pangallo said he would remain in Adelaide.

But he added: “I actually pay my rates and taxes on the island and my business supports the local economy”.

“The last time I looked, Kangaroo Island was not a republic.”

The island’s mayor Michael Pengilly slammed people planning to leave their primary home as “selfish”.

“We haven’t got any (confirmed coronavirus) cases I’m aware of at the moment and we don’t want any,” Cr Pengilly told The New Daily.

The respective comments further highlight the debate over whether it is illegal – or just irresponsible – for people to go away for an Easter break.

It appears leaders are not immune from the confusion over the various virus shutdown rules around the world.

Earlier this week, Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood resigned after she was busted going to her beach house. In New Zealand, Health Minister David Clark was caught mountain biking (which is not banned under NZ’s strict rules, but the fact he drove several kilometres to do it is).

On Wednesday night, it emerged that NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin had been staying at a beach house instead of in his Sydney apartment.

After being pictured at the holiday home, Mr Harwin told The Daily Telegraph he had been staying on the Central Coast for three weeks. It was more comfortable and he had set up a work from home station, he said.

Many shires are shutting down beaches in a bid to deter visitors. Photo: AAP

The NSW government has urged residents to cancel all non-essential travel to regional towns and urged Easter holiday-makers to postpone their trips.

The state’s Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller, said people should lockdown wherever their “primary home” is to prevent regional hospitals becoming overwhelmed.

‘We can’t cope … please, stay away’

For weeks, the message has been clear: Australians must stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus through the community.

Regional leaders have also made it known they don’t want visitors.

They fear it could increase the risk of transmission of the virus and put an unnecessary strain on supermarkets and regional healthcare.

In remote Victorian towns such as bushfire-ravaged Mallacoota, where tourists far outnumber locals during Easter, there is only one doctor.

The danger of a deadly outbreak is too great to risk.

“If somebody brought the virus to Mallacoota and infected the residents, we would not have a system in place that would cope,” East Gippsland Mayor John White told The New Daily. 

“If people do the right thing and don’t come, then we shouldn’t have any problems.”

In Beechworth, a regional town in north-east Victoria known for its gold mining history and Ned Kelly connections, the message is the same.

Indigo Shire Mayor Jenny O’Connor is urging visitors to stay away from Beechworth over Easter. Photo: Jenny O’Connor

“Please, do not come here,” Indigo Shire Mayor Jenny O’Connor told The New Daily.  

“This is a vulnerable community – we have a lot of older people and limited health services.

“We got whacked by the fire season and now our tourism is shut down, so it’s really hard to say ‘don’t come’, but we can’t afford to risk it.”

If you’re thinking of spending Easter with the fairy penguins at Phillip Island, think again.

The popular beach destination off Victoria’s southern coast is usually heaving with tourists over the long weekend, but this year every one of the shire’s beaches will be closed.

Bass Coast Shire Mayor Brett Tessari told The New Daily the mass shutdown was specifically “to deter visitors”.

In Byron Bay, home to celebrities such as actor Chris Hemsworth, prominent locals have urged visitors to stay home.

Musician John Butler and TV host Shelley Craft are among a group of celebrities featuring in a video created by Byron Shire Council.

#ByronStayHome

It feels strange for us to be saying this, but please #ByronStayHome.We cannot welcome any visitors right now.Residents, please stay in your own homes and villages as much as possible.Be calm, be kind, stay safe and stay home!

Posted by Byron Shire Council on Thursday, April 2, 2020

Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson told The New Daily the town “loved visitors, but not now”.

Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson said “stay home” over Easter. Photo: Simon Richardson

“It’s a very tough decision because it’s in our DNA to have visitors, but right now we don’t want anyone to come here,” Cr Richardson said.

“Right now is the time for our community to look after ourselves and people coming here puts a strain on our ability to do that.”

For those still wondering if they should travel over Easter, the message is clear: Stay home.

Many tourist hotspots have already been devastated by bushfires.

The last thing locals want is a coronavirus outbreak.

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