If you’re going crazy at home, take a staycation in Canberra — the Government says you can.
In surprising news, the ACT’s acting chief health officer confirmed that “staycation” packages advertised by hotels were not banned, giving locals the green light to take up offers over the long weekend.
“The ACT Government understands the change that is being asked of Canberrans, particularly during holiday periods like Easter,” Dr Vanessa Johnston said in a statement today.
“‘Staycation’ packages are not prohibited and might provide relief and respite for people in crowded homes or who are worried about their mental health and wellbeing.
“If someone takes up this package, they must still practise good hand hygiene and maintain the physical distancing measures.”
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In a marketing email to prospective guests, one hotel, Hotel Realm, said: “To our locals, we understand the pressures of living and working from home.”
“For those needing away time while not actually going ‘away’ we invite you to have a staycation.”
The hotel is also offering 24-hour room service and in-room exercise sessions.
But while the hotel industry has largely shut down during the coronavirus crisis, staycations are entirely legal.
“Businesses should make sure they are following government measures and advice to protect their employees and customers,” Dr Johnson said.
“If you do need to go out for essential reasons, like shopping, exercising, for medical reasons or to work, please limit the amount of interaction you have with other people.”
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr spent much of the week urging Canberrans to stay at home — especially over coming Easter break — but said today that going to a hotel could still be “within the health guidelines”.
He also suggested people might want to use hotels as quiet workplaces, if they were struggling to be productive at home.
“Some people are finding that they don’t have enough computers or enough bandwidth at home and they need to do some work and acquire the space, and so that’s sort of appropriate and within the health guidelines,” he said.
“Similarly, a staycation might be appropriate in the context of respite, and a little bit of a break for people.
“I wouldn’t anticipate there being a massive demand, but there might be some circumstances in which it’s appropriate … All of the usual rules would apply around physical distancing and hygiene and the like.”
He expected greater demand for hotels as workplaces rather than as holiday breaks, to help parents “get a little bit of quiet time” for work.
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Meanwhile, the ACT recorded two new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. A total of 99 cases have now been confirmed in Canberra.
The new cases were both men: one aged in his 60s and the other in his 70s. One had travelled overseas recently while the other had been in close contact with someone infected earlier.
Police warn against speeding on empty roads
ACT police are urging people not to speed on Canberra’s relatively empty roads. (ABC News: Ewan Gilbert)
Police confirmed today that no one in Canberra has yet been fined for breaching social distancing rules.
But ACT Chief Police Officer Ray Johnson warned people against trying to travel to the coast over Easter, saying New South Wales officers would be on the roads in large numbers.
He also said the average speed of cars in Canberra had increased “as a result of the lower number of cars on the road”.
Police had stopped two cars recently travelling at more than twice the speed limit: one was recorded speeding at 191kph in an 80kph zone; the other at 122kph in a 60kph zone.
“I spoke to one of our traffic members this morning — he reflected on the fact that he’d seen speeds much above 20kph over the speed limit,” Assistant Commissioner Johnson said.
“So I encourage you not to be thinking about that.
“If you’re out and about on the weekend doing what you appropriately and should be doing, don’t compound it by getting double demerit points and the fines that go with it.”
The ACT Government has also set up a helpline “to assist Canberrans through the challenges of COVID-19”.
The COVID-19 line will operate on (02) 6207 7244 between 8:00am and 8:00pm daily, and offer health advice, as well as information on stimulus spending and self-isolation.
Asked whether the Government was encouraging Canberrans to “dob” on those who breach infection control measures, Mr Barr said people could use the line to report “really bad behaviour”.
But he hoped most Canberrans would focus on their own conduct and what they could control.
“So focus mostly on your own personal response,” Mr Barr said.
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