As concerns grow about COVID-19, parents are wondering which activities are safe and which they should be avoiding. (ABC News: Margaret Paul)
With the number of cases of coronavirus rising in Australia, many families are wondering how they’re going to keep their children occupied.
Victorian schools will close for holidays from Tuesday, while parents in NSW have been told to keep children at home if they can.
In the ACT, most children will be home from today, with exceptions for families where parents are essential workers.
Many families chose to keep their children home even before these directives were announced.
Whether you’re wondering about your family holiday, or what to do about playdates and sleepovers, here are some things to keep in mind.
What are the things families should be avoiding?
An obvious one is avoiding shopping centres where possible.
While shopping centres do remain open, our political leaders have been clear about the fact they don’t want young people going to the shops just for fun.
Late yesterday Prime Minister Scott Morrison said parents need to take responsibility for children who are home from school.
“It is not an excuse for kids to go down the shopping centre,” he said.
Are playdates OK?
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has made it clear he doesn’t want to see holiday playdates or sleepovers.
Speaking to ABC Radio’s Virginia Trioli, he explained how his own children would be spending their time away from school.
“Normally in school holidays they would have friends stay with us, my kids would go and stay with their friends, they might go down to the shopping centre or the mall,” he said.
“My kids will not be doing that.”
Victorian parents have been urged to keep their children at home during the holidays. (ABC News)
Instead the Premier said his children would be staying home.
He gave another example explaining why families should avoid unnecessary social contact.
“We had an example just last week where a dozen or so people went to a dinner party, at the start of the dinner party one person was positive with the virus we believe,” he said.
“By the end of that dinner party just about everybody sitting around that dinner table left with coronavirus and who knows how many more people they have exposed.”
The advice from Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton was blunt: “[you] really need to minimise your contact with absolutely everybody.”
Can we still go away on our planned holiday?
Australians have been told for nearly a week now not to travel overseas.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said interstate holidays should also be scrapped, with only “essential” travel to go ahead.
“If there is essential travel relating to your work … if it’s on a compassionate basis or it’s in relation to health care or things of that nature, then these are trips that you would need to undertake,” Mr Morrison told the ABC’s David Speers.
“But otherwise, whether it’s discretionary travel, whether it’s a holiday … the advice is very strongly against that.”
South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the NT have announced 14-day quarantine periods for anyone crossing the border.
What about holidays planned within your state?
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
Mr Andrews said families with holiday homes can isolate themselves within those homes, but he had different advice for those wanting a more traditional holiday.
“The notion of a holiday, of travelling and socialising with other people and moving around hotels and pools … then, no, that is not essential,” he said.
Many of Victoria’s more popular public camp grounds and major tourist attractions have been closed, including Tidal River at Wilsons Promontory, the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road and the Buchan Caves in Gippsland.
Tidal River at Wilsons Promontory in Gippsland has been closed because of the coronavirus outbreak. (ABC: Carolyn Swann)
Meanwhile, Victoria’s Police Minister Lisa Neville has urged people to reconsider upcoming camping or caravan trips.
In Western Australia, national parks remain open for now, but restrictions are in place to enforce social distancing regulations.
It’s a similar situation in Queensland, where visitors to many popular camping spots have been told to keep their distance from others and to bring their own portable toilets.
K’gari (Fraser Island) National Park will be using social distancing measures for campers. (ABC News: Kerrin Binnie)
In the ACT, Chief Minister Andrew Barr has strongly urged residents not to travel to other parts of the country.
“The only travel outside of the Canberra region should be for work, for compassionate reasons, and to ensure the essential supplies and services that our region needs,” he said.
“This means no holidays on the south coast this Easter or school holidays, it means no weekends in Sydney or Melbourne.
“Visiting family and friends outside of the Canberra region needs to be carefully considered, and if it is not essential, don’t do it.”
One family shared with the ABC their novel way of having a holiday without travelling.
Marie Taylor told the ABC her family are doing their Easter camping trip in their the backyard this year.
If you’re living in an apartment, Ms Taylor suggested setting up your camp in your living room.
One option is to set up a campsite at home, like Marie Taylor and her family. (Supplied: ABC Facebook)
So, what can you do?
What our political and health leaders really want is for families to stay at home and create indoor activities with children.
Parents have been telling the ABC on Facebook what they are doing so far to keep their children entertained.
The list includes reading, arts and crafts, board and video games, watching television or movies, puzzles, playing cards, building Lego, using playdough, creating indoor picnics.
Other suggestions including gardening, having chores for children to do around the house and playing basketball in the backyard and making sure children do any school work they need to.
Dr Sutton said parents need to understand it is not business as usual for kids these holidays.
“Do games differently as children, you might need to be playing online more, you might need to be sitting apart and doing things differently,” he said.
Is it safe to go to the park?
Premier Daniel Andrews said families can still exercise outdoors, provided they took precautions.
He said it was OK to take the dog for a walk, to go for a run or to visit a park as long as you’re keeping your distance from others.
It means children, and parents, can still exercise and even take small breaks from their homes.
But we’re all being urged to make sure we do it safely — and that means not near others.
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