Confusion over what is permissible in public places as Daylesford comes under tourist siege

Apparently there's no social distancing required in Daylesford according to the scores of people at a weekend market. Picture: Facebook
Apparently there's no social distancing required in Daylesford according to the scores of people at a weekend market. Picture: Facebook

MELBOURNE might be in the grip of a second coronavirus outbreak with 165 new cases confirmed in the past three days, but while that city grapples with its suburban spike, regional Victorians are now genuinely fearing they will be next.

But confusion reigns as to what is permissible in public places with some signs on public places clearly not worth the paper they are printed on.

At the weekend, Bendigo saw its first confirmed case in more than a month, and with Ballarat re-opening many attractions to tourists - most from Melbourne - and towns like Daylesford experiencing unprecedented tourist numbers, it's feared the regions will not be immune for much longer.

At Ballarat's Victoria Park playground dozens of people were seen entering the playground which already had more than the allocated 20 people inside - as clearly signposted - at a time.

However, when contacted about this on Monday, the City of Ballarat was unable to provide a clear response as to how many were allowed to be on the site at once.

Despite signs saying number are limited to 20, it seems it's still a free for all at Ballarat's playgrounds

Despite signs saying number are limited to 20, it seems it's still a free for all at Ballarat's playgrounds

"Under current state government restrictions and advice, there is no limit on the number of people that can utilise fenced and unfenced playground facilities at any one time," a council statement said.

"People should not gather in groups of more than 10 and should stay 1.5 metres apart from others where possible."

One thing that is certain was the shock of Hepburn locals who woke to scores of tourists that descended on towns like Daylesford at the weekend.

A Daylesford resident, who asked not to be named, said she was appalled at the amount of people at the Daylesford Railway Station market on Sunday.

"I went down at 9.30am and there was a lot there then, I just grabbed my fruit and vegetables and left. Perhaps they need to look at making it just a produce market for a while," she said.

The resident said the influx of Melbourne-based tourists was a double-edged sword, in that while they helped keep businesses going, there were genuine fears about health.

"You go down the main street and I know most of the businesses are trying to do the right thing, but I also know they've had a gut full," she said.

"If you get a break-out here this week, how are they going to do contact tracing? There are a lot of venues that are 20 people at a time, but how do you know who's been to the market? There's no measures in place to limit numbers.

"You don't want businesses going broke, but you have to weigh up what's more important, it's just terrible."

Hepburn Mayor Licia Kokocinski said she was "aghast" at scenes in Daylesford at the weekend

Most of the businesses are trying to do the right thing, but I also know they've had a gut full

Daylesford resident

"The shire is not going anywhere," she said. "We went through this whole issue at Easter and the last term holidays. We were really worried back then that things were changing on a daily basis and it seems to be happening again.

"If you are coming from a known hotspot, you really should reconsider your plans."

Cr Kokocinski said the biggest fear was that contact tracing of a positive case could lead to a town like Daylseford or Trentham being shut down.

"What we are imploring is for our visitors to act responsibly and courteously," she said.

"I understand people want to get out, but it's also the livelihoods of those who live and work here, the farmers, the family and friends. We don't have the health services you have in Melbourne.

"If by chance someone is infected and contact tracing shows they have been to a supermarket or a restaurant in a town, it could mean the whole town will be shutdown for cleaning.

"If you don't want to think of locals, fine, but think of your family and friends and everybody else around you."

There has also been unconfirmed reports at the weekend that at least one regional pub near Ballarat had been fined for social distancing breaches.

Australian Hotels Association Victorian president David Canny

Australian Hotels Association Victorian president David Canny

Australian Hotels Association Victorian president David Canny said he had also heard the rumour that a country pub had been caught and fined and had requested a police report. As of late on Monday, he said he had still yet to receive a report. What he did say however was how critical it was for venues to strictly adhere to laws, under a real fear that they could be closed down again if the Melbourne outbreak cannot be contained to the city suburbs.

"It's what we've been saying all along, the rules are there whether we like them or not," he said.

"We all understand the frustrations that are associated with everything, but if we all do the right thing, we will get out of this quicker."

When contacted, police said they would not make any comments on specific business charged with breaking of social distancing laws.

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This story 'Think of your family and friends': Mayor 'aghast' at tourists as confusion reigns first appeared on The Courier.