EASTER is usually the final fling for seasonal holidaymakers on the Mornington Peninsula – but this year there is no welcome mat out.
The healthy injection of income businesses rely on to balance the books over winter has been replaced by closed doors and staff being stood down. Visitors are being asked to stay away.
The peninsula was last week identified as having second highest number of recorded COVID-19 cases of any Victorian municipality.
The statistics released by the Department of Health and Human Services showed the City of Stonnington had the highest number of cases, 61, with the peninsula at 42 ahead of Melbourne with 36.
Cases on the peninsula and in Stonnington are being traced back to a number of Australians who went skiing at Aspen in the United States in March. A third cluster in Noosa, Queensland was also linked to the Aspen group.
Several families involved have properties in both Stonnington and at either Sorrento or Portsea.
The fear of COVID-19 being imported onto the peninsula by visitors has led to the mayor, Cr Sam Hearn appealing for them to stay home and not come to the peninsula.
Flinders MP and Health Minister Greg Hunt, who’s electorate covers the entire peninsula, said rules about social distancing were the same everywhere: “I do have a message to those thinking they can come to the Mornington Peninsula and take a holiday from social distancing, the rules are the same regardless of location. We must continue to practice social distancing and stay home as much as we can to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of coronavirus.”
Bruce Billson, the former Liberal MP for Dunkley and now president of the Committee for Mornington Peninsula, has asked Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, to prevent positively diagnosed COVID-19 cases travelling to the peninsula.
He said infected people and returning travellers isolating themselves on the peninsula were “potentially placing huge pressure on local health resources”.
“Holiday homes and airbnb properties are reportedly popular isolation destinations for people whose primary place of residence is in metropolitan Melbourne,” Mr Billson said.
Along with other bayside municipalities Mornington Peninsula Shire closed its bayside beaches on Saturday (28 March), two days before the Premier Daniel Andrews listed “the only four reasons” people had to leave their homes: food and supplies, medical care, exercise, and work or education (“Shire closes bay beaches indefinitely”).
People breaching the directions faced on-the-spot fines of $1652 for individuals and $9913 for businesses.
Mr Hunt urged peninsula residents with any concerns to call the coronavirus hotline 1800 675 398 or visit www.australia.gov.au