Latest updates as virus crisis impacts grey nomad travel options

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coronavirus changes the Big Lap
The Covid-19 has sent shockwaves through the grey nomad world.

Safe haven offers: Since it has become clear just how many grey nomads have been caught out by the rapidly evolving  coronavirus crisis, there has been no shortage of people coming forward to offer travellers safe haven as the pandemic plays out. Some of the most recent offers can be viewed here. Many thanks to all who have stepped forward to help in this time of need for many.

NT border rules: Any grey nomad arriving in the NT must fill in a border arrival form to declare:

  • where they have travelled in the last 30 days
  • their personal and contact details
  • information about where they intend to stay whilst in the Territory.

Travellers will not be allowed to self-quarantine at a park or reserve.
“If you are staying in the Northern Territory, you must self-quarantine at the nearest available suitable accommodation,” a NT Government spokesman said.
The NT News reports that accommodation options are available throughout the Territory, with a number of roadhouses and wayside inns offering rooms suitable for self-quarantine purposes. Travellers will need to stay in accommodation with a bathroom and not leave the room fort two weeks.
“Accommodation providing shared bathroom facilities and/ or communal kitchens are not suitable for the purpose of self-isolating,” the spokesman said

Tamworth camping closures: Tamworth Regional Council is closing all camping grounds across the Tamworth region effective immediately. These closures will impact sites including Sheba Dams, Split Rock Dam and Manilla Freedom Camping amongst a range of other locations. Signs are being erected at impacted sites to inform the public.  Public Health (COVID-19 Gatherings) Order (no 2) 2020 provides that caravan parks and camping grounds must not be open to the public except for the purposes of allowing permanent caravan park residents or others who have no permanent place of residence.

NT isolation in caravans: According to the NT News newspaper, people crossing into the Territory will be able to isolate in their caravans if they declare where their end destination is, such as Darwin or Alice Springs. They must als0 demonstrate that they can appropriately isolate there (i.e. do they have food or bathroom access?). If not, they will be required to book accommodation. The time spent travelling to your destination is counted towards the isolation, but it’s okay as long as you exercise appropriate measures. For example, you can stop for fuel but you can’t hang around shopping centres on the way.

Clarence Valley parks: In the Clarence Valley in NSW, one holiday park will be shut and four others restricted amid a crackdown on non-essential travel. Calypso Yamba Holiday Park would be closed completely with council’s four other parks remaining open to those classed as essential travellers. The parks affected are Brooms Head, Iluka (Riverside), Minnie Water and Wooli and follows Australian Government advice against all non-essential domestic travel and a public notice issued by the NSW Health Minister.
Essential travellers will be required to sign a declaration form. They will also be required to follow government health advice around social distancing. Communal and recreational facilities such as pools, camp kitchens, and barbecue areas will be closed.
Clarence Valley Council has stated they will actively monitor official advice on the current COVID-19 situation and as soon as it is completely safe for their customers and staff, the parks will reopen.

Lithgow campsites close: The Lithgow local government area in the New South Wales has closed its council-administered camping areas. These include camping areas at Lake Wallace in Wallerawang, and Kremer Park in Portland. The current social distancing regulations apply. The council says it will advise of re-openings.

Sunshine Coast van parks: Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Council has closed its six holiday parks to holidaymakers amid the coronavirus pandemic. Council’s parks are located at Dicky Beach, Mooloolaba Beach, Maroochydore Beach, Cotton Tree, Mudjimba Beach and Coolum Beach. Only essential travellers will be accepted into the parks until May 31. Guests who are travelling for essential, compassionate, or in-transit purposes may still be permitted to stay. Extra cleaning has been implemented at shared amenities for holiday parks where essential travellers or permanent residents are staying. Essentially travellers include those people travelling within Australia with nowhere to go, no fixed address; those with a fixed address but cannot return home. Mooloolaba Beach Holiday Park has no essential travellers and will close in the coming days.

Yass van parks: In New South Wales, Yass Valley Council has closed Yass caravan park after the state government order due to coronavirus pandemic. The park will be closed to those who are not a permanent resident and/or without a permanent home. The site amenities will also be locked and only permanent residents will have access. The order also applies to RV and camping grounds, including Joe O’Connor Park, effectively immediately. Signs will be installed at Joe O’Connor Park notifying of its closure.

Gannawarra Shire: Visitors to Victoria’s Gannawarra Shire are being reminded that caravan parks, camping grounds and RV parks are now closed due to state government measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Exemptions are in place for people who those who are located in caravan parks as interim accommodation whilst their primary residence is not available; and for those who have the caravan park they are staying in registered as their primary place of residence.
“The Gannawarra is a popular spot for caravanners, campers and RV operators throughout the year,” mayor Lorraine Learmonth told the Riverine Herald. “Our local caravan park operators were busy preparing for what is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year.”
The Riverine Herald reports that Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and local government authorised officers will undertake inspections in the coming weeks to ensure that campsites, caravan parks and camping grounds are compliant.
“Council has placed signage at its RV camps at Cohuna, Kerang, Leitchville and Reedy Lake advising of the closure, as well as enacting the forced closure of council-managed caravan parks at Cohuna, Koondrook and Quambatook,” mayor Learmonth said.
Operators of other such parks located throughout the Gannawarra Shire are advised that signage should be displayed at the road entrances and on main buildings indicating that the park or camping ground is closed.

Essential travellers: The Federal Government has made it clear that caravan parks should not take in non-essential travellers, but that those who are travelling and unable to get home should be considered ‘essential travellers’.
The Caravan Industry Association of Australia’s Chris Johnson told the ABC that the statement had cleared up a lot of confusion.
“There was a lot of confusion as to what was essential travel and what was not,” he said. “The Government has seen that workers, people who live within caravan parks, and also people who are travelling around Australia and cannot get back to their place of residence, are classed as essential travellers and are welcome at caravan parks.”

Barwon Coast van parks to close: Caravan parks on Victoria’s Barwon Coast are to close their doors in an effort to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Barwon Coast Committee of Management chief executive Gary McPike said the venues would ‘definitely not’ be open over Easter.
“Since the weekend we’ve not been accepting any new bookings, we’ve closed our online booking system, and we’ve been notifying all those who are coming or have been planning to come in the next few days basically ‘don’t come’,” Mr McPike told the Geelong Advertiser.
“There are people in motorhomes, where that’s their only place of residence. The grey nomads and international tourists, we can’t just lock them out.”
He said that, at the moment, nobody new was coming in.”
“We’ve done an audit of the people we had in the park over the weekend, it’s only a handful, and there are a few of those who haven’t got anywhere else to go, so we have to be mindful on that,” he said. “We’re waiting on the direction from government on how we proceed.”

‘Don’t come to Tassie!’: Grey nomads planning to come to Tasmania by ferry have been told to stay away.
TT-Line, which operates Tasmania’s two Bass Strait ferries, is contacting all non-Tasmanians who have booked to bring their caravan or motorhome on the Spirit of Tasmania vessels that they are not welcome right now.
Under new border rules, all non-essential travellers arriving on the Apple Isle must enter 14 days of self-quarantine. The Government said self-quarantine was not permitted in caravans and motorhomes.
“The message is clear — if you are not a Tasmanian resident returning home or an essential traveller, do not get on the Spirit with your caravan or motorhome as you will not be able to self-isolate in it,” Infrastructure Minister Michael Ferguson said.

Popular camping ground closed: In northern New South Wales, the Nambucca Valley Council has announced that the popular Gumma Reserve Camping Ground will be closed until further notice. The action comes as the authority vows to do everything in its power to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the community. although it says it is not yet aware of any local infection cases. The council says it is taking ‘very seriously’ the recommendations from health authorities and the State and Federal governments to immediately implement rigorous social distancing policies.
“These are unprecedented and challenging times not just for the Nambucca Valley but also for the nation,” mayor Rhonda Hoban said. “Statistically, the Nambucca Valley has a higher percentage of vulnerable people who are susceptible to this virus and to do nothing puts lives at risk.”
The Gumma Reserve is a popular ‘primitive’ campground located approximately six kilometres east of Macksville.

Kimberley travel ban call: With the continued spread of COVID-19 across Western Australia and the country as a whole, the Kimberley Zone has called for the State Government to enforce a travel ban to our region.
The Kimberley Zone is made up of the four local governments in North West Western Australia – the Shire of Broome, Shire of Derby West Kimberley, Shire of Halls Creek and Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley.
With the tourism season approaching, where around half-a-million visitors travel to the Kimberley each year, the group said action had to be taken immediately.
Shire of Broome president Harold Tracey said there was no margin for error.
“We are calling on the State Government to enforce a maximum level of travel restrictions across and around the Kimberley region as soon as possible,” he said.  “While the State Government’s recent decisions in relation to curtailing interstate travel are a great start, additional measures must be taken in the north west before any confirmed cases of COVID-19 are identified.”
The Kimberley is home to many at-risk people, with residents susceptible to the adverse health repercussions of contracting COVID-19.
“The potential consequences of uncontrolled COVID-19 in the Kimberley would be devasting and as such the region’s four local governments are committed to working together to protect our residents,” Mr Tracey said.
Precautionary measures were taken in Broome last week, with popular Shire-run facilities changing their methods of service delivery to help remove physical contact between people.
More information here

‘Stay in your own state’: Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has said police and government will be enforcing the closure of the Queensland border, which comes into effect from midnight tomorrow (Tuesday).
Only freight and essential travel will be allowed, with some residents who work on the other side of the border may be given stickers for their cars to indicate they’re allowed to cross.
“Let me make it very clear, Queenslanders should stay in Queensland, people in New South Wales should stay in New South Wales and people in Victoria should stay in Victoria,” the Premier said. “We do not want people coming to Queensland to have a holiday break. This is not holiday break season … this is the season to stay at home with your family.”
She said the chief medical officer has advised her that there are serious health issues of people coming from other states to Queensland.
“Now, that is a big problem, because if we have people who are coming here, who have the coronavirus, we do not have the resources to spend on contact tracing all of those people and checking up on where they are staying under a 14-day so quarantine,” she said. “If people choose to do the wrong thing, police always have the powers at their disposal to deal with poor behaviour.”

Queensland Government clarification: The Queensland border will close, in line with other jurisdictions from midnight on Wednesday, March 25. It means that anyone entering Queensland will need to self-isolated for a period of 14 days.
“The Premier has also stated that holidaymakers should stay at home and avoid travelling distances unnecessarily.” said a spokesperson for the Department of Innovation and Tourism Industry Development. “This has obvious implications to the grey nomad sector.”
The Queensland Health website provides some information to keep track of developments:  https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert
Tourism and Events Queensland also provides tourist safety information via their website: https://teq.queensland.com/news-and-media/tourist-safety-information

Queensland borders to shut: Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced the state will close its borders to limit the spread of coronavirus. The move follows decisions from Tasmania, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia and ACT to impose a 14-day quarantine period on any ‘non-essential’ visitors. It’s unclear how the new border controls will be enforced given the many roads linking Queensland with New South Wales. The state government made the decision at a cabinet meeting a short time ago. More details will be released soon. The Premier says the national closure of bars, pubs, clubs, casinos, indoor sports venues and religious venues to control coronavirus in the state is now being enforced.

NT uncertainty: Tourism NT says it is still too early to tell what impact the measures taken by various levels of government will have for grey nomads travelling in the Territory. “Like everyone else we are taking it day by day and listening to the advice from Government and health officials,” a Tourism NT spokesperson said. “Also, because this news regarding border closures only came out over the weekend the information and advice following that will soon come out too, but we don’t have the answers during this time.”:
Below are some links to some information which may help regarding travel and self-isolation:
https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/
https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/community-advice/border-controls
https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/stay-safe/self-isolation
https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-travellers

WA regions stress: From pharmacies running short on vital supplies to air services being cut, regional towns across Western Australia are starting to feel the brunt of the coronavirus fallout. Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller told the ABC that the vast distances between towns in WA were a mixed blessing.
“It’s a double-edged sword … it takes longer to get there, but once it’s there, it’s harder to treat,” Dr Miller said. “There are smaller communities that it can rip through, there are less healthcare workers, who themselves can become sick.”
Dr Miller also expressed concern about the ability of regional towns to fly critical patients to Perth for treatment if hospitals in the city were already at capacity.

Burke Shire restrictions:
Burke Shire in north-west Queensland near the NT border has been declared a pandemic controlled area due to its vulnerable community and lack of medical services. This means that only essential, notifies travel is allowed. The shire is asking any visitors currently in its area to return to their communities or, if foreigners, to places that can provide medical services. Clare Keenan, the Shire’s CEO says the region is looking forward to welcoming grey nomads back when the pandemic is over. “We are sure the fishing will be even better then!” she said.

WA border restrictions announced:
The WA Premier, Mark McGowan, has just announced that, effective from 1:30pm (local time) on Tuesday, new border measures will be introduced in WA.
“The new border controls will apply to all access points, roads, air, rail and sea,” he said. “Unless exempted, arrivals from interstate will be ordered to self-isolate for 14 days.”
Mr McGowan then urged Australians with holidays booked in WA to cancel them.
“Please, cancel your holidays, otherwise you’re going to be required to self-isolate in WA and there will be very specific rules put in place.”
He said exemptions will apply for essential services and essential workers.
“We need to continue to ensure that we can have a supply of gas, a supply of essential services, medicines, goods and the like, into WA and that is the work we have been doing over recent days,” the Premier said.

SA border restrictions:
South Australia has joined the NT and Tasmania in implementing strict new border controls in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Premier Steven Marshall announced on Sunday that anyone entering the state would be subject to a mandatory 14-day isolation period. The new measures will take effect from 4pm on Tuesday and will not impact the state’s essential services, including the supply of food.

Campers ‘evicted’:
Campers along Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula foreshore have been given three days’ notice to leave as the coronavirus outbreak continues to grip the state. Holidaymakers along the McCrae, Rye, Rosebud and Sorrento foreshores received the news their stay would be cut short in an email from Mornington Peninsula Council this morning. The message also advised that campground toilets and showers would be locked at 5pm today (Sunday) and all caravans and equipment had to be removed by April 3.  “While we are all disappointed that the camping season has to end early, it is a necessary step to protect our community and do our part to flatten the curve of this pandemic,” the email reads. “All affected campers will be entitled to a full or pro-rata refund for the unused portion of their stay.”

Cook Shire restrictions:
Access to Cape York is being restricted. Police will be stationed at various access points to the Cook Shire, in particular on the Mulligan Highway potentially near Mt Carbine or Lakeland to advise on travel restrictions on all non-essential travel to Cape York and Torres Strait. There are currently no restrictions on travel between any communities within Wujal Wujal, Hope Vale and Cook shires.

Cape York access:
Queensland National Parks has confirmed that all Cape York parks will not open at the end of the wet season due to coronavirus infection fears. In a statement to the Cairns Post, QPWS said the department “continues to monitor and receive guidance from the government in relation to COVID-19 health and safety information”. Campers are urged to check regularly updated information published on the department’s website.

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