States urged to clamp down on Australians making regional trips to avoid coronavirus

A man wearing a protective mask walks past an official medical advice advertisement by the Australian Federal Government. Source: AAP

Doctors have warned people against travelling to regional areas to escape the coronavirus pandemic as political leaders urge the public to stay at home and self-isolate.

Australians are being urged not to travel to regional areas to escape the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure already-stretched health services aren't overburdened.

The warning from the Rural Doctors Association of Australia comes as states impose border restrictions to deter interstate travel and plead with Australians to stay at home.

RDAA President Dr John Hall told SBS News there is real concern travellers will transmit COVID-19 to communities they travel to and strain their limited health resources.

“We are saying this is a really bad idea - people need to stay in their homes - they need to practice self-isolation,” he said. 

Rural Doctors Association of Australia President John Hall.
Rural Doctors Association of Australia President John Hall.

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia are worried about reports of holiday-makers getting in caravans and travelling out of the major cities to avoid the virus.

Dr Hall said he understands these people may be “well intentioned” but they are risking harm to both themselves and others.

“They are actually putting the communities at risk to where they are travelling - but they’re also going to be putting a strain on essential resources in those towns,” he said. 

The fear is people from city centres pose a greater risk of spreading the virus to more isolated communities - where the contagion has not yet taken hold. 

Federal and state politicians have urged the public to stay at home, self-isolate and cancel any planned holidays for the foreseeable future. 

But some operators on accommodation website Airbnb are still advertising properties where people can “self-isolate in secluded luxury”. 

MPs push for North Queensland border restriction

NSW and Victoria are now the only states without border restrictions forcing non-essential incoming travellers to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Tasmania’s Premier Peter Gutwein has told visitors they “should not come” to the island state unless they are a returning Tasmanian or essential traveller. 

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said “people should stay in their own state”.

But federal MPs Michelle Landry, Matt Canavan, Philip Thompson and George Christensen have also written to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk asking for additional restrictions to North Queensland.

"We write to you to ask your urgent consideration for shutting North Queensland's borders," their letter reads.

“These calls stem from concern about the lack of available resources in Northern Queensland to handle a widespread outbreak of COVID-19."

Travel to islands off the Queensland coast has already been restricted for travel to Palm Island, off the north Queensland coast.

In Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, border restrictions are in place, including for entry into remote Indigenous communities. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has ruled out shutting her state's borders.

"I don't see how shutting state borders helps," she said. 

"NSW and Victoria are on the same page on that."

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