Australia The reasons that will get you through WA coronavirus checkpoints — and the excuses that won't fly

12:01  05 april  2020
12:01  05 april  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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a person standing next to a car: Police are keeping a close eye on motorists travelling in regional WA. (ABC News: Jon Daly) © Provided by ABC NEWS Police are keeping a close eye on motorists travelling in regional WA. (ABC News: Jon Daly)

A proposed "script" for police officers manning road checkpoints between WA's regions reveals the "commonsense" directions informing who should be allowed through and who should be turned back.

At 11:59pm on Tuesday Police Commissioner Chris Dawson enacted a prohibition on non-essential travel between the state's nine regions in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Breaches can be penalised with a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for corporations, with police conducting mobile patrols in addition to manning checkpoints.

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During the first two days of the ban, 201 vehicles were stopped at checkpoints and prevented from entering another region, while 36,459 were deemed exempt and allowed to pass through.

Discretion to make 'common-sense' decisions

The checkpoint script advises officers to greet motorists similarly to how they would during a random breath test before asking the motorist to state the purpose of their travel.

Although that question need not be asked in cases where the purpose is blatantly obvious, such as an emergency services vehicle or a truck carrying livestock.

People have been encouraged to carry documentation, such as a letter, email or SMS from an employer explaining their need to travel.

Police are instructed to maintain stay at least 1.5 metres away from motorists at the checkpoints and if that cannot do that then they should wear personal protective equipment.

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Motorists who can prove they are legitimately exempt from the ban are to be waved through the checkpoints after having their vehicle registration number recorded.

Motorists found to have no legitimate reason to travel between regions are to be turned around after police record the registration details of their vehicle and the names of all occupants.

The officers are encouraged to take a practical approach when deciding on the validity of requests to be made exempt, and to make real-time decisions based on a "commonsense approach".

Where an "umpire's call is needed" the matter should be referred up the chain of command, the script advises.

Those exempt from the travel ban are:

  • People who are returning home
  • People who are going to work or carrying out the duties of their occupation
  • People meeting their primary-caring responsibilities
  • Anyone under threat of physical or psychological harm or in an emergency situation (other than COVID-19)
  • Someone needing to obtain goods or services without which they would be likely to suffer harm — if it is not reasonably available in the region they are in
  • Students attending primary, secondary or tertiary education
  • A parent or guardian enabling the education of someone they are responsible for
  • A person fulfilling the obligations of a parenting plan, court order or similar
  • Someone needing to obtain or provide veterinary or animal welfare services not reasonably available where they live
  • A person whose spouse, de facto partner, child, grandchild, sibling, parent or grandparent has died, is suffering a life-threatening illness or has been incapacitated
  • Those carrying out essential services
  • Someone who is in police custody
  • People who have written authorisation by the director-general of the Department of Education or is a member of that person's immediate family or household
  • Someone who is required to do so by law
  • A person with Police Commissioner Chris Dawson's approval

Going on a holiday doesn't even come close

The document also lists the sorts of motorists the checkpoint officers might encounter, and whether or not they are likely to meet the criteria for exemption.

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Long lines formed at the Polish-Ukranian border Saturday hours before a ban on foreigners entering Poland took effect.Credit Wojtek Jargilo/EPA, via Shutterstock.

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Anyone hoping to begin or a continue a holiday should be turned around, but travellers making their way back to their primary residence can pass through.

Those who have flown into WA from interstate and are making their way home from the airport are also allowed to cross regional boundaries in order to get there — but once home they will need to begin a mandatory 14 days of self-isolation.

If they have arrived in the state from overseas they will be forced to undergo 14 days of quarantine in a Perth hotel before they can go home.

WA check points © ABC WA check points

People travelling to the airport to fly out of WA will also be waved through regional checkpoints, but they cannot have a friend drive them there as this is not an excuse to cross regional boundaries.

A person doing that would be stopped at a checkpoint unless their passenger was either a sick family member, their child, or someone else in their care, such as an aged or disabled person.

No surfing trips — well, unless you're a pro

Travel within the region you are already in is not technically restricted as yet, but the Police Commissioner and the Premier have asked people to stay home and not take holidays.

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And the Health Minister Roger Cook has also expressed concern about the dangers of people spreading COVID-19 if travelling between major towns in the same region.

People in the Goldfields have been urged to cancel any plans to travel from Kalgoorlie to Esperance for Easter, and Perth residents were told not to flock to Mandurah.

WA check points © ABC WA check points

Daytrips or short drives outside of your region for leisure or recreation are also definitely off the cards.

The checkpoint script also states a surfer driving to a beach outside their region should be turned around, unless they are a pro-surfer in which case they may be exempt.

The document notes that travelling for leisure activities may be allowed if that activity is how the person earns a living, such as a professional athlete needing to train as part of their employment.

Builders, pool cleaners, painters and baristas are all listed on the document as examples of people who may be exempt if they need to cross a regional boundary for work purposes.

At this stage all members of the public can still pass through regional checkpoints, if it is unavoidable, on their way to the office or whatever their workplace may be.

Alcohol definitely off the essentials list

If there are no "reasonable" alternatives in your area you can also pass through a checkpoint on your way to the shops to buy food and other essential groceries.

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The exemption protects people who might live on the outskirts of a population centre which happens to be just over the other side of a regional boundary from their home.

WA check points © ABC WA check points

Some people also live remotely and the nearest supermarket within their own region is several hours further away than where they might usually shop.

But the exemption only applies for essentials such as food, toilet paper, medication and household staples — with alcoholic beverages not classified as essential groceries.

Health, social services get the all clear

People will be allowed though a checkpoint if they are travelling to access medical care such as visiting a specialist or GP, a physiotherapist, dentist, acupuncturist, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Exemptions are also made for people who need to see a social worker or anyone who needs to go to a police station, be it for assistance, or if they are required to do so by law, such as someone reporting on bail.

Anyone travelling due to domestic violence issues will also be allowed to cross regional boundaries.

They are covered by an exemption which allows people to travel if escaping the threat of physical or psychological harm, or an emergency other than COVID-19.

A person will also be exempt if they need to enter another region to care for their children or drop them off as part of a parenting arrangement, or to comply with a court or police order.

Students travelling to access primary, secondary or tertiary education or a parent travelling to help provide education is also permitted.

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Entering another region in order to care for a sick family member, child, aged or disabled person or anyone else for whom you have primary care responsibilities is also allowed.

Exemptions to keep animals healthy are also in place, with veterinarians and animal welfare services allowed through checkpoints when necessary, and people are exempt if taking pets or livestock to the vet.

Police also have discretion to allow someone to travel on compassionate grounds, which include the death or life-threatening illness or injury of a spouse, de facto partner, child, grandchild, sibling, parent or grandparent.

Essential services unimpeded

Anyone performing an essential service can travel through the state wherever necessary for the purpose of performing that service.

The list of essential services encompasses people within the government, emergency services, judicial staff and the military, and includes:

  • A senior government official responsible for protecting against threats such as terrorism, war, or espionage
  • Active military personnel
  • State and Commonwealth cabinet ministers and their staff
  • State and Commonwealth MPs and one member of their staff if they are travelling to their electorate
  • The WA Governor, Kim Beazley, and members of his establishment
  • A person requested by the Health Department to assist in providing health services in a region
  • People providing transport, mail, courier, freight and logistics services
  • Specialists required for industry or business continuity and maintenance of competitive operation, if the service is time-critical
  • People responsible for maintenance or repair of critical infrastructure
  • A person employed or engaged in agriculture, food production, or primary industry
  • FIFO workers
  • A person providing services in sectors including disability, aged care, family violence, child protection and housing services
  • A person providing or maintaining utility or waste management services
  • Emergency service workers, including volunteers or contractors engaged by an emergency service
  • Employees of a regulatory agency or authority
  • Judicial officers or staff of a court, tribunal or commission
  • Anyone else given written or oral approval by Police Commissioner Chris Dawson

Doctors, nurses, health workers and related industries, such as people who supply and maintain medical equipment, pharmacists, dentists and morgue workers, are permitted to travel to any region which the Health Department requests them to.

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Farmers and other agricultural workers and people involved in food production and other primary industries are included as essential service workers.

WA check points © ABC WA check points

Many human service providers are also classified as essential, including aged care providers, child protection workers, disability services and family violence support services. Even funeral directors and grave diggers are mentioned in the planning document.

It also mentions truck drivers, taxi drivers, uber drivers, postal services and couriers as among essential freight and transport services.

Also classified as essential are people who run, maintain or repair critical infrastructure.

Specialists who keep industry and business going could be considered essential as well in circumstances where performing their service was time critical.

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