Debate over stay-at-home rules spark as hardware stores stay open, while churches close

by | Apr 15, 2020

When Australians were banned from attending church over the Easter weekend to prevent the spread of COVID-19, consumers then began to question why hardware stores were allowed to stay open despite strict isolation rules, according to a recent report by The Age.

Easter is always a busy time for hardware stores as consumers complete DIY jobs over the long break, and this Easter proved to be even busier because holiday makers could no longer go on their annual camping trips. As authorities reiterated the only reason to leave home was to purchase essential goods, for the care of others, work, study and exercise, Australians then questions why DIYers were allowed out to purchase items to complete jobs at home.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell recently, that visiting a shop was a sufficient reason for being outside, as long as the retail business was not restricted under the Chief Health Officer’s guidelines, according to The Age report.

A search for clarity around what is OK also resulted in authorities being asked about all sorts of hypothetical scenarios, such as fetching firewood, driving to McDonald’s or visiting a holiday home. The problem has been compounded by states having different rules for recreational activities such as golf and fishing.

At a briefing on Easter Monday, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton expressed frustration about the confusion.

“I’m a bit surprised by some of the questions. There are only so many times you can say ‘If you can stay at home, please stay at home’. So, to get questions — ‘Can I shoot a rabbit at a wedding? ‘Can I take my personal trainer here, there and everywhere?’ — surprises me. I think people should focus on what they can and should do to reduce transmission now,” he said in The Age report.

Dr Sutton said that shops like hardware stores were allowed to stay open because they sell essential items needed for maintenance or in an emergency.

“They will have some items that are available … that are not essential. They will be open for people to get them if they absolutely require them but it should not be a free-for-all.”
For those still seeking answers for what is allowed, the Department of Health and Human Services has released a long list of answers to community questions about the stay-at-home order.

Prior to Easter, Bunnings encouraged customers to shop at the store for supplies ahead of the Easter break, with research showing 65 per cent of Australians had at least one unfinished DIY job to do at home.
“We know the importance of customers being able to access the products they need, whether it’s for urgent home repairs and maintenance, supplies for tradies to keep their businesses running or items for home projects to keep people active. We are also hearing from customers that these projects provide a useful physical and mental distraction to the challenges of extended periods of time at home,” Bunnings Managing Director Mike Schneider said in The Age.
Hardware customers are also expected to experience some delays when visiting stores due to the social distancing it implemented across stores, according to a recent Yahoo News report.
Bunnings has also increased its cleaning in-store and for equipment such as counters, trolleys and baskets, while team members have also been provided with gloves and hand sanitiser. Sausage sizzles along with family events and in-store activities have also been suspended.
Anyone visiting a Bunnings store is now required to stand on marked crosses on floors to maintain 1.5 metres of distance from others, according to the Yahoo News report.