IT'S not unreasonable to say initial government statements in January and February about the risks coronavirus posed to individuals, and the health system, were confusing for the public and not clearly explained.
People largely went about their business. If the Prime Minister could say he was still going to the footy only a couple of weeks ago, what was there to worry about for the majority of the population, was a common view.
There was a lot to worry about, as we now know, after health officials were given the microphones and the dire threats of a potentially overwhelmed health system were explained, at the point where numbers started to rise.
But even late last week we were still getting mixed messages, as the Ruby Princess cruise ship was allowed to disembark 2700 passengers without coronavirus testing, after it was wrongly classified a "very low risk", and infected passengers were allowed to spread into the community.
No doubt some of the thousands of people who flocked to Bondi Beach on Saturday read about the Ruby Princess and decided it was too nice a day to stay at home. Social distancing went out the window.
The response from federal and state governments was immediate. What happened on Bondi Beach was "not okay", said Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday before a meeting of state and federal governments to plan and announce "more draconian" efforts to restrict social interaction because "too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough".
In the Hunter, as in much of the country, people are torn between complying with measures designed to restrict the virus's spread, and concern at the economic fallout, particularly to local businesses, as the shutdowns tighten.
Mr Morrison stressed that places like Sydney, where cases are rising at a concerning level, will experience stronger restrictions while many parts of the country that remain coronavirus-free do not require the "more draconian" measures he anticipates.
The message here is that so far a majority of Australia's 1100 cases - as at Sunday - can be sourced to people arriving from Europe and the Americas. Controlling community transmission is the key to restricting the health impacts of this virus. With plans for a lockdown in NSW in the next day or so, we need everyone to do their bit.