Illawarra residents who drive around the region to visit friends of family this Easter could face hefty fines, as local police join the statewide crackdown on non-essential travel.
That was the message from Wollongong police commander Superintendent Evan Quarmby, who said people needed to "re-think" their traditional long-weekend plans.
On Wednesday, he warned that police would be "out in force" conducting their usual Easter road safety operation as well as enforcing new restrictions in place under the COVID-19 public health order, especially at public spaces, beaches and national parks.
Speeding, mobile phone, seatbelt and motorcycle helmet offences will attract double demerit points as usual on a long-weekend.
"Police have certain powers that we can employ to take enforcement action but what we're hoping for is that people will show responsibility and it doesn't come to that," he said.
"The highway patrol will be out in force and they will detect anyone who may be speeding, or breaking the law."
He said this included people who were on the roads without a good reason under the "essential travel" rules.
According to the legislation signed by Health Minister Brad Hazzard on March 30, essential reasons to leave home include obtaining food or other goods and services, travelling for the purposes of work or education if the person cannot do it at home, exercise, or medical or caring reasons.
Further, people are not allowed to gather in a public place unless they are members of the same household, or the gathering is essential for work or education .
Supt Quarmby said the main message from police was: "Don't travel on our roads, stay at home".
"Police have the power to take action against people who disobey the restrictions," he said.
"It is far better for you to stay at home, where you can keep yourself safe and avoid any risk to you family.
"The Easter break is traditionally a time when people go to visit their family, we're just asking people to rethink any non-essential travel."
While there has been reasonably consistent advice on what constitutes "essential" travel, there remains a number of different interpretations of the NSW Health rules.
For instance, Supt Quarmby's advice for Illawarra residents who may be planning to visit beaches differed slightly from that of Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, who has stated numerous times that the Illawarra's beaches remain open for essential exercise.
"All beaches in the Wollongong area are closed, which means they are not patrolled by lifeguards and it's important people take this on board," Supt Quarmby said.
However, asked if people could walk along the beaches or take a dip - activities which are not allowed at many Sydney beaches - he said exercise was classed as "essential".
"People are encouraged to partake of some exercise to keep themselves fit and healthy during this time, but people need to obey the rules which have been articulated quite clearly across the state," he said.
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