A little-known Stage 4 lockdown rule is baffling and enraging Victorians who have dubbed it “a total load of rubbish”.
Victoria Police posted on Facebook explaining the common misunderstanding about whether or not you can drive to a park or beach for exercise, as long it is within the five kilometre radius.
Police clarified that it is not permitted.
“It has come to our attention that there is some misunderstanding in relation to whether or not it is permitted under Stage Four restrictions to drive to a park within five kilometres of your home for exercise,” Port Phillip Police Service Area wrote on its Facebook page.
“According to the Department of Health and Human Services, travelling in a vehicle to exercise is NOT permitted. Examples of exceptions to this rule apply if it is not reasonably practicable to exercise without driving somewhere, such as mobility.”
Police added they were patrolling to ensure everybody was complying with the restrictions.
“We understand that some people are unhappy with this restriction. This restriction has come from the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of the Chief Health Officer. As police officers, it is our job to enforce these restrictions in order to keep our communities safe, as we all face coronavirus,” the post said.
“This restriction has been highlighted and shared with you due to the fact that some people did not know it was in place. We believe it is important to educate our community. Please do the right thing and follow the restrictions.”
Those found breaching the rule could face a fine of up to $1652.
Thousands of Victorians are outraged by the little-known rule, with one saying it was “mind blowing”.
“How is that about health?” he questioned.
“Driving there would actually be safer for health. This is insanity.”
Another said it made no difference whether a person drove to a park or walked there.
A third added it was a “total load of rubbish”.
“It’s becoming a joke,” she said.
“If we are within the five kilometres, wearing a mask, why does it matter if we took the car or not? As a mother trying to homeschool all day, a short drive to our local lake for a walk makes no difference.
“Stop this level of control, this uncertainty, these outrageous restrictions. You told us all to use our common sense, it’s about time you start using yours before you have a bigger problem to deal with in Victoria than a virus.”
Another mother agreed the rule was “stupid”.
“Going for a walk or bike ride with my three young children, I don’t feel comfortable on the footpath. It’s extremely busy and there are driveways every few metres ... and now I can’t drive to our local walking track?” she questioned.
“Absolutely disgusting,” another said.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters on Wednesday the rule could be revised.
“If we can make revisions around the directions, if that's required, happy to do that – but it might just be a matter of clarifying interpretation with the chief [police] commissioner,” he said.
Fears rule could impact mental health
Others claimed the lockdown would be even more detrimental for people’s already suffering mental health.
“Going to the beach is good for my mental health and is in my radius. Not a fan of this rule at all,” one commented.
Psychologist at the Black Dog Institute, Alexis Whitton, told Yahoo News Australia last week green space had a positive impact on people’s mental health.
“Health studies that look at the association between mental health and green space show it has positive benefits as we think about the things we do in parks,” she said.
“It’s likely you were physically active and had an opportunity to socialise if you went with friends and were likely unplugged from screens and devices – all these things have a positive effect on wellbeing and stress levels.
“One of the big things for people who don’t have access [to parks or green space] might be a feeling of not having anywhere to destress, and particularly with the added stress, their desire to get out amongst the trees to cope could be even stronger.”
Earlier this month new statistics revealed the worrying impact the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown is having on young Victorians.
On August 9, Victoria’s Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said there had been a 33 per cent increase in people aged under 18 presenting at emergency departments after self-harming.
There has been a 9.5 per cent increase year-on-year in presentations for self-harm at Victoria’s emergency departments across all age groups.
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