Officials in Australia have temporarily closed Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach after crowds ignored the government’s warnings about preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. It’s among a series of new closures around the world aimed at combating the pandemic.
Last week, Australia banned outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people to help fight the spread of COVID-19, which has infected at least 1,071 Australians so far, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally of confirmed cases.
On Saturday, New South Wales state police minister David Elliott announced Bondi Beach was closing, warning that closures would “become the new norm” if people continued to ignore government regulations, Reuters reported.
“This is not something we are doing because we are the fun police,” Elliott said in a televised news conference. “This is about saving lives.”
“We will be closing down the type of iconic activities that unfortunately we’ve come … to love and adore about our lifestyle.”
Crowds have flocked to Bondi Beach this week. Images show people swimming, surfing and sunbathing without following social distancing orders of staying at least five feet away from other people, announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday.
According to Reuters, Health Minister Greg Hunt called the crowds “unacceptable” Saturday, as the number of infections across the country sharply increased this week.
A view of the crowds at Bondi Beach on March 21 as beachgoers ignore social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus outbreak.
In addition to Bondi, other beaches in Sydney will close on Sunday. Lifeguards across the state will be conducting headcounts and closing beaches with more than 500 people, Elliot said.
Despite canceling all non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people due to the #coronavirus, thousands flocked to Australia’s Bondi Beach Friday.
One beach goer said, “The whole world is probably looking at us right now thinking of what a massive mistake we’re making.” pic.twitter.com/2TK89otWnr
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) March 20, 2020
“The decisions we make today can be life and death decisions for other people in a few days,” NWS Labor’s Shadow Treasurer, Walt Secord told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ahead of the decision to close Bondi Beach. “People are ignoring the social-distancing guidelines and I just think it’s absolutely ludicrous.”
In a press release Friday, Morrison said that over 100,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Australia. He emphasized the need to take the virus seriously and adhere to guidelines from health officials.
“Every Australian has a part to play in slowing the spread of coronavirus,” Morrison said.
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