The NSW Government has closed Bondi Beach after the number of people on the famous sands exceeded Australia’s outdoor-gathering limit imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The closure is temporary and the measure will extend to other beaches if social-distancing rules, which have banned non-essential outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people, are being flouted.
NSW Police Minister David Elliott ordered the beach to be shut on Saturday afternoon.
It came after many people made the most of warm weather in Sydney yesterday, descending on the tourist hotspot.
Pictures of the large crowds went viral online, attracted widespread criticism, and drew the ire of Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and other officials.
Mr Hunt today said while most Australians were taking enormous strides when it came social distancing, the number of people at Bondi was “unacceptable”.
Meanwhile, Mr Elliott warned more beaches would likely be closed around the state.
“If the community does not comply with the regulations and the health warnings, well, then this is going to become the new norm,” he said.
He said the Government had not shut the beach because it was “the fun police”.
“Some of the photos that I saw from this very beach, of dozens of families using communal showers and toilets is in complete denial of what this virus is all about,” he said.
Mr Elliott warned Sydneysiders they could be carrying, and spreading the virus without knowing it.
Mr Elliott’s comments were echoed by the Waverley Council, which covers Bondi Beach, and many people on social media.
Waverly Mayor Paula Masselos advised people to stay at home if they did not need to be out in public.
“We all have a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and I am frustrated that people continue to ignore health advice about social distancing as observed yesterday at Bondi Beach,” she said.
“Behaving irresponsibly puts the entire community at risk.”
The crowds at Australia’s most famous beach even made the news on US network CBS, which broadcast vision of tightly packed people congregating on the sand and in the surf.
NSW Labor’s Shadow Treasurer, Walt Secord, who lives at Bondi, urged the State Government to consider closing the beach altogether.
“The decisions we make today can be life and death decisions for other people in a few days,” he said.
“People are ignoring the social-distancing guidelines and I just think it’s absolutely ludicrous.”
Surf Life Saving NSW said it would withdraw patrols at beaches where crowds exceeded 500 people.
Brennan Bastyovanszky, a lifesaver at Bondi, said yesterday was “perfect storm”, with warm weather and people feeling the need to get a dose of fresh air and sunshine drawing people to the beach.
“I was amazed,” he said.
“You had as many people down here as you would on New Year’s Day.
“It was one of the busiest days I’ve ever seen and it was cause for concern, but it’s outdoors — I could see that people were generally keeping their distance, so even though the beach was incredibly packed, you could see that people were keeping a metre and a half, two metres away from one another.”
NSW Police Assistant commissioner Karen Webb said officers had “a range of powers” available to them to enforce the ban on large gatherings.
“It is a very dangerous disease and virus, and we’re trying to reduce the impact on the citizens of New South Wales,” she said.
Joey Goldman, who works in Bondi and had earlier on Saturday taken the opportunity to go for a surf, said he did not think people were taking social-distancing advice seriously.
“Maybe because there’s not as many cases here as there are overseas,” he said.
“I reckon the whole country should be in lockdown but it’s not my decision.
“Soon we’re probably not going to be able to surf so might as well get in some waves now.”
Source: ABC AUSTRALIA