Long distance long weekend

As the McGowan government announces a half million-dollar plan to help support mental health across the state, tens of thousands of Western Australians have found themselves stranded for the Easter weekend.

Once such person is TAFE nursing student Emma-Lee Steer, who came to Perth from Northam for her studies, but finds herself unable to go home for Easter or her birthday for the first time ever.

“It’s affecting my mental health a bit at the moment as I don’t get to see my family or my animals and just hug them, spend time with them,” Miss Steer says.

“Many of my friends from high school in the Wheatbelt are stuck in Perth as well, and I know from speaking to them that everyone’s just really missing their families.”

“A lot of people go camping for Easter with their family and that’s a big tradition for people, but now they can’t do that and they can’t see their family.”

The Kwinana Freeway blockade is only one of around thirty across Western Australia.
Image: Supplied.

People are turning to online forums, such as group chats on Facebook or live videos through applications like Zoom or Skype, in order to try and bridge the gap caused by the bans.

According to the Department of Health, as of April 9, there are 495 total cases of coronavirus within Western Australia, with 56 of those cases being people whose home address is outside the Perth and Peel regions.

The blockades and enforcement of safe distancing within the Perth region are also set to receive a boost in the coming days, with the McGowan government announcing a $91 million dollar package on Wednesday afternoon which will see a total of 285 new police officers join the force.

Click here to go to the Main Roads WA website.

While there are ways to get across borders to see families, applying for the ability to travel between the regions has proven prohibitive for some.

Recent Murdoch graduate Kalen Harvey, who has a tradition with his family on gathering together in celebration for Easter, says confusion over the the blockades has made it too difficult for them to meet.

He is calling on the government for further clarity on exactly who can and can’t travel between the regions.

The ban also means there will be a large number of elderly people going without family visits for the Easter long weekend.

Aged carer Ursula Fitton says after only getting one day’s notice about new restrictions on visitation, aged care facilities have been exploring new ways of connecting their residents with families.

Using CareApp, a program designed in 2017 to keep families in touch with their elderly through photos, videos and other digital media forms, the application has seen heavy use since the virus began and will be put to the test over the Easter weekend.

“Occupational therapist assistants will come in and set them up and assist them with it, which is great as not everyone can manage technology,” she says.

“Families can ring up any time they want during the day and talk to their relatives, there’s no barriers there at all.”

Categories: COVID-19, Travel

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