The NSW Nationals in Government are asking people to put off non-essential travel between regional NSW towns and remote communities, telling them Easter holiday plans should be indefinitely postponed in line with the nationwide effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputy Premier and NSW Nationals Leader John Barilaro said he was worried about city residents travelling to regional NSW during Easter in an attempt to escape quarantine, which would be extremely dangerous for country communities.

“We continue to battle the worst drought in recorded history, we have endured bushfires that took the lives of 25 people and destroyed more than 2,400 homes and what we don’t need is people spreading the virus across regional NSW,” Mr Barilaro said.

“I know towns hit hard by the drought and bushfires are relying on holidaymakers to keep people in jobs and put food on the table, but right now health and safety is paramount and lives depend on every single one of us doing our part to help by staying at home.”

Clarence Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis said the Clarence and Richmond Valleys had always welcomed visitors and holidaymakers over the Easter period, but valid concerns they could spread the coronavirus further in the region meant people had to stay at home.

“I never thought I’d be pleading with people not to visit us, but this is deadly serious,” Mr Gulaptis said.

“Coronavirus tourism – where people from the Gold Coast/Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne take up holiday lets on the North Coast – is not on. It is both dangerous and selfish and now it is also illegal with strict new orders in place and fines of up to $11,000 and possible jail time for people who flout the rules.

“Now that international visitors are forcefully quarantined, the main concern is community transmission and that happens when people travel.

“So my strong message to visitors and tourists is this is not a time to go on holidays. You won’t be welcomed, you won’t find it safer here and you won’t find fewer restrictions on normal life activities,”

Nationals Upper House MP Sam Farraway said people simply needed to stay at home and restrict their essential movements to the local community.

Mr Farraway said the National Cabinet had asked all Australians to stay at home unless they were shopping for essentials, were receiving medical care, were undertaking daily exercise or were attending work or school, which wasnow enforced by law.

“COVID-19 does not discriminate and does not care about borders, so now is not the time to travel between towns or to relocate, the safest thing you can do right now is stay in your local community,” Mr Farraway said.

“It is important everyone understands that COVID-19 isn’t just impacting cities and these measures will help protect the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community.

“To help slow the spread we need people to do the right thing by our families, friends and neighbours, which means staying 1.5 metres away from others, no social gatherings, washing hands and ensuring that if you are sick, that you self-isolate.”

Help is available to people across regional NSW, particularly people who are isolated and the elderly, and encouraged anyone who needs a hand to call the NSW Government’s COVID-19 hotline on 13 77 88.

For the latest information about the NSW Government’s response to COVID-19, go to: www.nsw.gov.au

Visit aus.gov.au for the latest COVID-19 coronavirus updates.