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In a 31 March Media Release, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro, asked that all non-essential travel to regional NSW towns and remote communities be cancelled. Mr Barilaro is particularly worried about city residents using the upcoming Easter break to try and relocate themselves to regional NSW in an attempt to escape quarantine. There was no mention in the Deputy Premier’s correspondence of other potential clusters of COVID-19, such as in Sydney Suburbs and Residential Strata blocks, or indeed Bondi, where the coronavirus is a problem with overcrowding in backpacker hostels.

Mr Barilaro told the Sydney Morning Herald that there were worrying examples in popular tourist spots such as Jindabyne, where operators were marketing holiday packages "to get away from COVID-19 and get some fresh air". Australian Short Term Rental Australia (ASTRA) Board Member Joan Bird currently has 39 holiday rentals listed through her Ray White Jindabyne website, and 28 listings on Airbnb under her Snow Escape Holidays brand. And last week, ASTRA Chairman Robert Jeffress went begging to Federal and State Governments for a handout to cover his 446 Airbnb properties and those of his short-term rental cohort. Another fellow ASTRA Board Member, Tim Court, writes that he has over 500 short-term rental properties across three Mid-Coast offices.

After a vicious and sustained backlash from Airbnb ‘hosts’ across social media, The Australian newspaper has picked up that the US$31 billion Airbnb has launched a $400 million ‘rescue fund’ for its landlords. Airbnb’s blog states that company employees have donated US$1 million while Airbnb’s founders are also contributing US$9 million. Airbnb will start distributing grants in late April 2020; potentially halting the flow of short-term rentals back onto the property market for tenants. Landlords must meet eligibility criteria. Approved hosts will receive relief grants of up to US$5,000, with no need to repay the grant. There appears to be no requirement that the grants will apply to accredited accommodation providers only; an indication that Airbnb will continue its aiding and abetting of illegal rentals.

Both Deputy Premier John Barilaro and State Labor Leader Jodi McKay could be eligible for a US$5,000 cash handout from Airbnb.

Across the UK and United States and Europe, many City authorities are placing complete bans on Airbnb and Stayz-type rentals.

A Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 [NSW] concerning staying at home decrees: “Taking a holiday in a regional area is not a reasonable excuse” for movement.

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting fears of a COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and that backpackers could be spreading the virus into the community. The Financial Review notes that high-density apartment buildings are at risk of becoming hotspots for coronavirus infection, akin to cruise ships, unless there are firm and uniform government directives on hygiene. Most strata residents may be keenly attuned to possible risks however one questions the intention and ethics of Airbnb clients who are secreted into residential buildings with no regard for neighbours proprietary rights, let alone the health of surrounding residents.



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