For many Canberrans, Easter means crawling down the Kings Highway in a long queue of cars for the last gasp of summer as the bite of winter begins to set in.
But this year that’s officially off the table.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the local councils at the South Coast have all emphatically told the public not to visit due to the risk of COVID-19.
So, with advice to only leave the house if it’s necessary to do so, what can Canberrans do for the long weekend ahead?
‘We must not become complacent’
This week the ACT’s acting chief health officer Vanessa Johnston said there were signs social distancing measures were working, with one day this week recording zero new cases of coronavirus in the territory.
But she said those who chose to defy the rules and travel at Easter could jeopardise that.
“We are most certainly flattening the curve, however many jurisdictions are still seeing spread of the disease so we must not become complacent,” Dr Johnston said.
“Please stay home this Easter long weekend. Do not think it is safe to travel down the coast or interstate or gather with family and friends.
“Please find other ways that you can connect with your loved ones over this Easter period.”
Mr Barr was also clear, saying everyone had to do the right thing and stay home for the sake of the health of the wider community.
He said those with ACT number plates seen travelling in NSW were “highly likely to be stopped” and could face fines.
“Please, Canberrans, stay home,” he said.
“Do the right thing by the communities we love.”
Eurobodalla shire councillor Anthony Mayne said those living in the region — encompassing Batemans Bay, Moruya and Narooma — did not want visitors, including Canberrans who own holiday houses in the area.
“What I love about the Australian spirit, in times of adversity [is] most people do the right thing,” Cr Mayne said.
“But already, we’re seeing some people come down.
“The message has got to be that 99 per cent is not good enough. Because if you’re the one per cent and you come down here and you stop off at the pie shop at Braidwood, fill up petrol at Tomakin, and you don’t even know you’ve got it because of the incubation period, you’ve just brought it into our shire.”
The Eurobodalla area has recorded just 10 cases so far, with that number easing in recent days.
Like the ACT, the health of that community is dependent on people not travelling over the next few critical weeks, to ensure the curve continues to be flattened.
Hospitals in the area are also unable to care for many seriously ill patients, so anyone who contracts coronavirus on the South Coast and requires hospitalisation would have to be transferred to Canberra or another major centre, putting further strain on the healthcare system.
So, the coast trip is off — what can Canberrans do instead?
It’s tough being away from those we love, but the advice has been to limit gatherings to just two additional people, outside of a household.
That means big family gatherings are out, even for those living in the same suburb or city, but video calls and phone conversations are in.
It could even mean that more meaningful conversations can be had without the distraction of a large meal to cook.
Church services will also be held this weekend via video link, offering a modern alternative to keep people connected.
Live-streaming will enable even those who normally can’t leave the house due to infirmity or disability to have access to the same services as others in their community.
Easter egg hunts around the house or garden are one thing that can continue in the pandemic, with authorities confirming there would be no restrictions on the essential work of the Easter Bunny.
And, for those choosing to incorporate their hunt into their daily outside exercise, an ACT-wide scavenger hunt is underway this weekend — all while allowing for social distancing.
The ACT Government launched the hunt, inspired by a similar one in New Zealand, and a design for participants has been released online.
Similar to the suburban Bear Hunts, all that is required is to print out a blank design, colour it in, and then stick it up in a window.
That will mean the young and young-at-heart can see it from a safe distance while they’re out searching for Easter eggs this long weekend.
Eat, cook, garden
While travel is out, we are still allowed to shop, and ordering takeaway is one way to support local businesses struggling due to coronavirus.
A new delivery service, Canberra Eats, recently launched in the ACT, providing Canberrans a way to plan their meals ahead of time, while ordering from their favourite restaurants and pubs.
Some places are offering meal deals, with cheaper options for those who order multiple meals in advance.
But, if you’re not looking to outsource, baking is another good option for those wanting to stick to the Easter theme.
There are a lot of recipes for hot cross buns and other Easter essentials that are sure to be a hit with all the family.
And, if you’re taking it a step further and wanting to grow your own food, Easter remains a great time to plant some staple vegetables and keep the household entertained at the same time.
Vegetables in season at this time of year in the Canberra region include broccoli, cabbage, carrot and cauliflower.
Seedlings are available at most supermarkets, and pots can even be made out of tin cans or other recyclable materials you have lying around at home.
And for those who might usually have enjoyed a night on the town over the Easter long weekend, there are at-home alternatives.
Video chat karaoke is a coronavirus-safe way to belt out some tunes with your mates while enjoying a drink or two — just don’t forget to wear your most fabulous outfit, and press mute when someone else has the “stage”.
For lyrics, check out YouTube, where most songs are available in karaoke-friendly form.
And many clubs and pubs are offering live-streaming, including well-known Canberra institution Mooseheads, who are streaming their regular DJ sets this Saturday.
When in doubt, turn to the imagination
Many of us will be missing the beach this year, a time when being by the sea is pretty tempting.
Even those who live at the coast are currently not allowed to linger on the sand, and must limit themselves to incorporating a swim into their daily exercise before heading home.
But thanks to the world wide web, there are many online videos that provide a virtual version of the sight and sound of the ocean for those craving its relaxing vibes.
Other activities include painting or drawing the ocean, even for those without any art experience.
And you can always choose to read about the sea — even ESA Commissioner Georgeina Whelan has done so, for a video reading of There’s a Sea in my Bedroom, a story that also reminds us of the power of the imagination in difficult times.
For the more mature readers, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is available to listen to for free on YouTube.
Going camping, a popular Easter tradition for many families, is no longer possible in the ACT or NSW.
NSW Parks has told the public not to holiday in any of its national parks, limiting activities to shorter walks that count as the permitted one form of daily exercise.
And the ACT has closed all of its campgrounds, as well as Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, while Namadgi National Park remains closed due to damage caused by the Orroral Valley bushfire.
But because camping is indelible to Australians, many are already finding creative ways to enjoy the past time, be it the back corner of the backyard or perhaps in the front-yard, so they can wave to passers-by from a safe distance.
That includes Canberra healthcare worker Suzma Dhakal, who established her backyard campground ahead of the long weekend, when she would be returning to work.
Indoor camping is also allowed, with cubbies made from blankets, cushions and chair-legs entirely possible and, according to many, way more fun than the real thing.
So while the coast may be off the cards, there are still plenty of things you can do at home to have a memorable long weekend.