YOU could drive a truck through the concession Daniel Andrews provided to “holidaymakers” on the eve of the shutdown of metropolitan Melbourne at midnight last night.
Well, a caravan anyway.
And six weeks’ worth of supplies.
Those intent on “continuing their holidays” arrived in big numbers at the state’s holiday hotspots yesterday, along the Great Ocean Road, towards the snowfields and down the Bass Highway.
The sight of heavy traffic crossing the bridge at San Remo last night, the wrong way, raised the ire… and the fears of locals on social media
* “Coming back from Cranbourne this arvo noticed a lot more cars than usual heading here.”
* “Should check licences that would help identify where they come from.”
* “People who are already away can stay, hence the rush to go regional. And they can go back home when they want, if that’s 1, 2, 3 weeks or longer.”
* “I don’t understand why some people think the rules don’t apply to them. As if they think they are entitled to go wherever they please.”
And they were some of the polite ones.
Here’s what the Premier said in answer to a question from the media on Tuesday, at his big announcement about the Melbourne shutdown…
“They will be able to complete their holiday, but no one will be able to go on holiday from metropolitan Melbourne because leaving home for the purposes of a holiday is not one of the four permitted reasons.”
It was a genuine concession to those still on school holidays in regional Victoria, but it was also an open invitation to those intent on rorting the system, to pack up immediately and head for the hills, and the coast.
But it’s a grey area that we didn’t need and while police are aware of it, they’re going to have a hard time policing the new ‘Principal Place of Residence’ provision of the Melbourne lockdown.
At the time, Mr Andrews stressed why Melbourne people must not go out into the country.
“In terms of ‘Principal Place of Residence’, stay at home means just that. Not stay at your holiday home. Not stay at your second home. Your principal place of residence is where you must be, except for the four reasons to leave your home.
“This is I know further than we went last time, but we are in many respects in a more precarious, challenging and potentially tragic position than we were some months ago.
“The notion of people continuing to move around the state from one residence to another is a risk that the public health team is not prepared to take and on that basis the stay at home order is about your principal place of residence, your actual home, not a second residence wherever that might be.
“Regional Victoria has very, very few cases and vast parts of regional Victoria have no cases, this is designed to keep it that way.”
Both the Police Minister Lisa Neville and the Chief Commissioner Shane Patton urged cooperation but stressed the time for leniency was over.
Commissioner Patton said he would be adding “several hundred more police” to the 500 tasked in Operation Sentinel.
“Stay in Melbourne unless you have a valid reason for leaving. We’ll be checking IDs and issuing fines of $1652 to those in breach.”
Minister Neville said police would be assisted in their work by community members reporting alleged offenders to the Police Assistance Line on 131 444.
“Yesterday’s call numbers increased to 810 reporting bad behaviour and seeking information”.
Locally, Sergeant Shaun Kennedy of the Bass Coast Police Service Area at Wonthaggi said there would be a focus on the new COVID-19 provisions.
“Yes, we will be out and about, but it will be more a case of whether people are social distancing, staying in overcrowded accommodation and that sort of thing that they will come to our attention,” Sgt Kennedy said.
“We’ll be asking for IDs and, in line with what the Chief Commissioner said, if people should be issued with an infringement notice they will be.
“If they are found to be in breach of an order, we’ve been told to take a hard line with it,” he said.
“If they’re out late, hanging around they may have their IDs checked, it’s a case by case basis because some people like to go out and get their exercise at night, go for a run if they can’t get to sleep.”
But he doubted police would be going door-to-door to check if people staying in holiday houses or Airbnbs by the coast should be there.
He did however acknowledge that police would respond to reports of alleged offences from the community.
“I saw the lines of traffic on the Monash and a lot of cars coming in here but where they were going and who they were is hard to know.
“But we know the rules. People from metro postcodes are not supposed to be down here and they can expect to be asked the question if stopped by police.”
Real estate agents and accommodation providers have been allowing people to complete their stays but have been taking their own action to stop Melbourne people coming.
One operator posted a warning:
“Hey guys. I have an Airbnb down here. I’ve cancelled all booking for 6 weeks. But, I’ve just has someone wanting to book. He’s from a lockdown suburb. And truly doesn’t think the rules apply to him. So if anyone gets a message from [Name] saying he’s looking to come to the island this weekend please check where he truly is from, not where he states he is from.”
They can of course take bookings from those living in regional areas.
There has also been a rumour circulating that there are one, two or more cases of coronavirus active in the Bass Coast community but the claim is not backed up by the official stats and has been neither confirmed nor denied by Bass Coast Heath CEO Jan Child.
“BCH will not always know of every positive case and if we did, we would not be able to confirm it due to privacy, but I can tell you generally, given the high rates of community transmission, the very infectious nature of this virus, the high level of complacency by many people in our community who are not doing the right thing with distancing and hygiene, the potential for people to be asymptomatic and not even know they are spreading it, and the number of people who move in and out of our catchment, there is a strong likelihood of us having positive cases in our catchment now and into the future,” Ms Child said.
“We are at a very concerning crossroads. How we fare will absolutely be determined by how we all behave locally, no matter who we are or where we normally live.”
Having allowed a potentially catastrophic concession the day before, the Premier redoubled his efforts at protecting regional areas at his media briefing yesterday.
“We have vast areas where there is no community transmission and we have to safeguard these areas. We are looking at relaxing restrictions in regional areas which will be good for those areas and the economy of the state but to achieve that we have to have a hard border between the 31 metro LGAs and Mitchell Shire and regional areas… 5000, 10,000 deaths, we don’t want that here and that’s why we have to stay the course and get it right.”
Another social media contributor gets the final word though:
“It’s a pity the lockdown was left until after the school holidays where 1000s have been allowed to visit and probably infect regional Victoria.”