Australians’ patience will be tested this Easter long weekend, with holidays away cancelled and coronavirus laws and restrictions blocking adventures into the great outdoors.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has warned abandoning social distancing rules over the long weekend would undo everything done to curtail the crisis.
In case government and police warnings through social and news media haven’t got the message through, the federal government has texted millions of Australians directly with the blunt message: “Stay home this Easter & help save lives. Only leave for what you really need + exercise, work, medical & care.”
“What you really need”, like other messages from authorities since the crisis began, is open to different interpretations.
But police out on the beat around Australia enforcing isolation and social distancing are unlikely to accept the argument from a crowd on the beach that a party is what they “really need”.
With the temperature forecast to reach the mid-30s this weekend in Perth, frustrations and fines could mount on the city’s beaches.
While the mercury was already in the low 30s mid-week, WA Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Dreibergs warned too many people were simply laying around socialising on the coast.
“If you want to go to the beach, go, have a swim, pack up your towel, go back to your car, head home,” Mr Dreibergs told 6PR radio.
It’s the same story in most other states for beaches that aren’t totally closed because of recent overcrowding, although sunbaking remains possible in South Australia for groups up to 10, with only one person per four square metres.
Other popular recreational activities like fishing, golf and tennis are either banned or subjected to distancing restrictions, depending on a state or territory’s regulations.
Bushwalking in national parks that remain open is generally restricted to locals, but camping and caravan holidays aren’t an option this Easter.
So for anyone wanting a virtual experience of the great outdoors, the Caravan Industry Association of Australia has come up with its Camp at Home Heroes initiative.
The association wants couples, families or mates living together to set up camp “in their backyards, living rooms, and even balconies”.
Citing its own survey on the stress-reducing, family-bonding and happiness-building benefits of camping, the association’s Keelan Howard says “these benefits can still be enjoyed in your own home”.
The Let’s Go Caravan and Camping Facebook page has competitions and tips to camp at home.
Easter church messages full of hope
Meanwhile, Australia’s church leaders have focused on hope in their annual Easter messages, speaking to the nation’s faithful amid the COVID-19 outbreak and after the summer’s devastating bushfires.
Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies says when asked whether coronavirus had killed Easter, his answer is a “resounding no”.
“We’ve never experienced a crisis quite like this before,” Dr Davies says in a video message.
“We have so many fears – unemployment, loneliness, the safety of our loved ones.
“Of course, the greatest fear of all from this virus is the fear of death, but the message of Easter is that death has been conquered.
“There is hope because God sent Jesus into our world.”
In her Easter message, filmed on bushfire-ravaged Kangaroo Island before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, President of the Uniting Church in Australia Dr Deidre Palmer says “from death and devastation, new life and hope emerges”.
“As we come to Easter this year, we are conscious of all those who are affected by the catastrophic and unprecedented events in Australia of bushfire, of flood and drought in so many parts of our country,” Dr Palmer says.
“Christians believe that through his life and ministry, Jesus identifies with and comes alongside us in our suffering, and offers comfort, love and healing in all we’re going through.
“In these times of crisis and trauma, we stand with each other, journeying and struggling together through the long road ahead.
“In the midst of grief, we see emerging signs of hope and signs of new life.”
Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher says it can seem “impossible, even insensitive, to talk of hope when people are sick or dying, anxious or isolated, unemployed or otherwise burdened.
“We’ve been through plagues before. Some have been devastating. But eventually they pass,” Archbishop Fisher says in his video message.
“After Good Friday comes Easter, after the tomb, new life.”
Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia Peter Barnes says it seems “we are constantly swamped with the great issues of the day – droughts, then fires, then floods, then plague”.
These issues of the day “point to the greatest issue of all time. The Son of God walked this earth, and defeated sin and death,” Pastor Barnes says in a statement.
Melbourne’s Anglican Archbishop, former Anglican Primate Philip Freier, says Jesus’ death at Easter causes Christians to reflect on their own mortality while in his resurrection is seen the promise of eternal life.
“The unexpected crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this truth to the forefront of awareness,” the Archbishop says in a video message.
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