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Aussies urged to stay home this Easter

Australia is on track to ease tough virus restrictions soon. But if we ignore warnings this Easter long weekend, that could all change.

National data released this week revealed the tough measures put in place around Australia to slow the spread of COVID-19 – and avoid an America or Italy-style outbreak – are paying off.

But the possibility of restrictions soon being lifted, or at the very least loosened a little, could disappear within the next 72 hours if Australians ignore the Federal Government’s pleas to stay inside this Easter long weekend.

“We know that it’s a religious observance time, a holiday time and an important time for families,” deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said in an interview with the ABC this morning.

But, he said, “we know in other countries where coronavirus has spread rampantly it’s been associated with holiday seasons where there’s been a lot of travel of people, mixing of people, and households coming together. We can have none of those things this Easter.”

Australians have been urged to stay home this weekend, with residents warned police will be out in droves to fine anyone caught “deliberately and blatantly” breaching social distancing, mass gathering or self-isolation rules.

Aussies urged to stay home this Easter

Data released on Tuesday shows Australia’s virus restrictions are working – but complacency this weekend could threaten the progress we’ve made. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas CochSource:AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the holiday “incredibly important” earlier this week, adding that everything people have been asked to do up until this point especially applies this weekend.

“When you normally may have gone out together as family, and been out in public places or parks, or gone away, that is not something you can do this Easter long weekend,” the PM said.

“Stay at home. Failure to do so this weekend would completely undo everything we have achieved so far together and potentially worse.”

The number of coronavirus infections in Australia has passed 6000, with the death toll rising to 51. But, Mr Morrison and chief medical officer Brendan Murphy revealed on Tuesday the nation had reduced the rate of infection more quickly than the models expected.

“We have so far avoided the many thousands, if not tens of thousands of cases, that might otherwise have occurred at this point. And indeed the many more fatalities that could have also occurred by this point,” Mr Morrison said.

“It has occurred well beyond our expectations in the way that we’ve been able to bring that daily growth rate down together and certainly ahead of what all the theoretical models would have expected.”

While Prof Murphy said Australia was in a “relatively strong position” when it came to combating the potentially-deadly virus, it was not an excuse for people to become “complacent”, especially this weekend.

“We cannot relax what we’ve been doing,” he said. “If we in any way lose that rigour that the community has embraced, particularly over Easter, it could all come undone.”

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told media this morning police would be watching the towns on the border between NSW and Queensland “very carefully” this weekend.

“We’ve pushed additional police resources up there,” he said. “We’ve been going through the caravan parks and other holiday spots to make sure we don’t have visitors here. Anyone who has been here who shouldn’t be has been warned.”

The Commissioner said from Good Friday onward tickets would be issued to those who were out of their homes without a reasonable excuse.

Queensland and NSW will be stepping up their border control measures over the long weekend. Picture: AAP Image/Dave HuntSource:AAP

Queensland Police had a similar message for people still planning an Easter getaway, with those on the Gold Coast set to pull over out-of-town cars and give them two options: go home, or go home with a $1334 fine.

And it won’t just be drivers stung with fines – every person inside the car, if found to be undertaking non-essential travel, can expect to pay the price.

“Stay at home. Travel for essential reasons. Enjoy the time that you have with your family, the time we really get,” Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said this morning.

“I know the weather is going to be fantastic this weekend, it’ll make it more difficult. Please comply with the rules. We will be out there.”

In Western Australia, police roadblocks will be in place to enforce travel restrictions between the state’s nine regions.

Premier Mark McGowan told residents only essential travellers would be permitted to travel outside these restrictions.

“Don’t be an idiot and don’t take unnecessary risks,” he said.

“If you try and get caught you will face a large fine – so don’t take the risk, stay home and stay safe.”

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