Police have descended on thousands of beachgoers who flocked to the surf to soak up the sunshine in soaring temperatures despite health authorities saying sunbathers aren’t doing anything wrong.
Sweltering Sydneysiders who live within 5km of the city’s sun-drenched beaches headed to Bondi and Coogee on Sunday as the mercury hit 30C.
Many followed Covid protocols by visiting with just one friend and wearing a mask, but cops reminded others to follow public health orders – as the number of new coronavirus cases hit 1,262.
Photos showed officers approaching scantily-clad Bondi residents to tell them to wear face coverings while they were not swimming, surfing, walking, or jogging.
People flocked to Coogee and Bondi (pictured) on Sunday as temperatures hit about 30C, but they were slammed by people in the west
Sunbathers gathered on Bondi Beach on Sunday to soak up the warm weather, sparking outrage among Covid-fearing residents
Police roamed the shore and reminded people to wear face masks, and made sure no one was outside their 5km limit
Sydney residents face $500 fines for not wearing a mask ‘in all indoor or outdoor areas, other than a place of residence’.
They are allowed to exercise with one other people and can enjoy outdoor recreation such as sunbathing solo on with their household – but must wear a mask.
But photos of teeming masses at the beached enraged people trapped in the 12 hotspot local councils under a tougher lockdown.
They are subject to a 9pm to 5am curfew and have no opportunity to lounge on the sand for hours at a time under ‘recreation’ allowances – plus any beach is much farther away than the permitted 5km.
Austere images of the west showed streets that would have been vacant if it wasn’t for the heavy police presence deployed to ensure people don’t leave their homes for non-essential reasons.
The images of eastern suburbs residents enjoying the warm weather sparked rage among those in the city’s south-west, but chief health officer Kerry Chant urged people to stay calm.
‘I think we’ve got to temper…’ she began at Sunday’s Covid press conference when asked about how busy the beaches were, before changing tack.
‘I realise that many people who are living in south-western Sydney and Western Sydney don’t have access to that because of the restrictions.
Police patrolled Sydney’s beaches on Sunday morning to ensure no one was gathering in groups of more than two. Pictured: Bondi Beach
People from Sydney’s eastern suburbs flocked to Bondi Beach (pictured) to soak up the sun on a hot spring day
Pictured: People enjoying the sunshine at Bondi Beach on Sunday, as temperatures hit the low 30s
Pictured: Police in uniform making sure no one travelled beyond 5km of home to lie on the beach on Sunday morning
‘However, we do have to understand… in outdoor environments, if people are keeping away from each other, are probably the safest environments.’
She encouraged beachgoers not to congregate in large groups to avoid sparking ‘spot fire’ outbreaks of coronavirus.
‘What we want to do is extinguish as many spot fires as we have and I don’t want to be having to put an additional burden on our public health resources in responding to outbreaks in those areas,’ Dr Chant said.
The chief health officer then admitted she had not seen the photos of heaving beaches, but hoped people were doing the right thing.
When Premier Gladys Berejiklian was asked the same question, she echoed the words of Dr Chant.
Pictured: Police patrolling Coogee Beach on Sunday to ensure sunbathers weren’t defying Covid-19 restrictions
Pictured: Two women wearing face masks on Bondi Beach on Sunday. Temperatures his about 30C for the second day in a row
Dr Kerry Chant asked Sydneysiders who do not live within 5km of the ocean not to lose their tempers, and reminded people that outdoor recreation was largely safe
‘We know the weather adds to our positivity and what we can look forward to in October, so it is important we all stay the course and stay in there,’ she said.
‘What is most important is until we have a safe coverage of double-dosed vaccinations, we cannot let down our guard.’
Furious western suburbs residents took to social media to accuse the NSW government of double standards.
‘Very nice to see Sydney folk ignoring covid transmission warnings because they selfishly want a swim or picnic while other people in their state are forced to lockdown,’ one man tweeted.
‘There’s a disgusting class divide and you will never get rid of all cases as long as Gladys handles it this way.’
Images of the west were in stark contrast to the heaving beaches of the west. Pictured: A local shopping centre in Bankstown
Pictured: A vaccination centre in Bankstown, in Sydney’s west. People took to Twitter to rage about how people in the east are at the beach and people in the west are forced to stay home
Pictured: A sign on a shop door in Merrylands, in Sydney’s west, telling customers it will be shut until October
Another wrote: ‘I look at Bondi and Coogee beach and realise that Sydney is no longer under stay at home orders. I guess [Gladys Berejiklian] forgot to tell the regions.’
But Guardian journalist Paul Karp defended beach-goers, reminding people that going for a swim is healthy.
‘Going to the beach is not “giving up” on fighting Covid, it’s doing one of the safest, healthiest things you can do to stop going stark raving mad in lockdown,’ he wrote.
‘Get a grip wowsers.’
Similar scenes of packed Sydney beaches raised eyebrows on Saturday, when the state had a record-breaking 1,599 new cases of Covid-19.
‘This was Bondi today,’ a frustrated man from one of Sydney’s LGAs of concern posted on Twitter, above a photo of groups of maskless people walking close together.
Another said: ‘Meanwhile in my LGA I can’t see anyone and wear a mask even when I’m running and I have no friends to walk with. Seriously f**k right off.’
Ms Berejiklian also said in Sunday’s press conference – which marked the final daily Covid briefing – that the next two months will be ‘the most challenging our state has ever seen’.
‘I need to make sure we are not only making decisions for the next day but for the next week and next month.’
Empty stores line the streets in Sydney’s west, as residents plough through their third month of harsh lockdowns
Pictured: Austere scenes in Bankstown, as people were forced to remain at home amid tough lockdowns in 12 LGAs of concern
The streets in the city’s west would have been empty if not for a large police presence patrolling the streets
The state leader said she will still feature at 11am, but that it won’t be a daily occurrence so she can focus on developing a roadmap out of lockdown.
‘We are the first to outline a roadmap of living with Covid and outlining travel resume internationally, and he quarantine system on a large scale,’ she said.
The statewide lockdown is set to end completely when NSW hits 70 per cent double-dosed vaccinations, with a set target of October 18.
So far, 78 per cent of people over 16 have had at least one jab, and 45.6 per cent of people in the state are fully vaccinated.
When asked whether NSW would be open in time for Christmas, the premier said: ‘Absolutely.’
‘I would like to think that by Christmas, not only will we be welcoming home more Australians, thousands every week from overseas to reunite for Christmas, but also that we don’t have these internal state borders,’ she said.
Pictured: Police patrolling Marylands on Sunday to make sure residents don’t leave their homes for non-essential reasons
Streets in Sydney’s west were largely vacant on Sunday, even though temperatures soared to the low 30s
NSW had 1,262 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, as the state powers through its final weeks of lockdown
‘It is only a matter of time before Delta becomes part of every state, every state’s experience.
‘I predict that NSW and Victoria will work more closely about these matters moving forward.
‘And if you look at the way, the way that things have been tracking, there is no doubt Victoria and NSW will be in similar positions in relation to being able to welcome home Australians.’
Cases are expected to peak this week, and already dropped from 1,599 on Saturday, but hospital and ICU admissions will be ‘overwhelming’ in late October and early November before declining.