Police have ordered people back home as Queenslanders defied social distancing measures and crammed into popular picnic spots on the first weekend of eased restrictions.
As authorities warned they would be watching closely, thousands of people flocked to beaches, parks and walking tracks, with carparks overflowing.
Outdoor recreation places were busier than they had been pre-coronavirus as citizens who had been locked up for weeks visited their favourite locations en masse.
With so many people gathered in close quarters, it was almost impossible to continuously maintain the 1.5 metre distance that authorities have warned must be followed.
Police issued 140 fines of $1334 for social distancing breaches on Queensland’s first two days of “freedom”.
The waterfront at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast was one the busiest beaches – drawing the ire of social media users, who warned the “clamps would be back on in Queensland” very soon.
Police sent people home at 6pm on Sunday as the masses lazed on the grass watching the sunset from Goodwin Terrace.
So this was Burleigh Heads (QLD) on Saturday as the slightly relaxed social distancing policy came in.. ffs… There's like a million places to go on the GC to chill out and they all choose the same spot. pic.twitter.com/Y0CFhWBAII
— CommonGround (@CommonGroundAu) May 3, 2020
At the entrance to D’Aguilar National Park, one man described the bushland as busier than a shopping centre.
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said one of the worst breaches involved 25 people at a party at an Airbnb property.
Commissioner Carroll said most people were doing the right thing but the situation at Burleigh Heads was “disappointing”.
“Please don’t go and do that again this afternoon,” she said on Today.
“If an area is busy, please move away from there so we can maintain social distancing.”
Eased coronavirus restrictions that kicked in at midnight on Friday meant Queenslanders could picnic, drive up to 50 kilometres and go boating and hiking.
But residents were allowed to move about only with members of their household and were told to maintain social distancing measures.
In the Northern Territory, nature enthusiasts flocked to Litchfield National Park, filling campsites and waterholes within a few short hours.
Other popular attractions were golf courses, playgrounds and public swimming pools.
Victorians have a crucial week ahead that will help their government make the call on whether the state follows others in easing restrictions after May 11.
School virus cases
A Sydney school has closed for intensive cleaning and contact tracing after a student tested positive to the coronavirus.
Just days after term two began, Warragamba Public School will be “non-operational for on-site learning” on Monday, with all students undertaking at home learning.
Staff and students identified as close contacts will be contacted and advised they should self-isolate for the required period of time. The school said on its website it would provide more advice on Tuesday about when it would resume on-site learning.
The infection follows a teacher testing positive on Sunday at Meadowglen Primary School, in the Melbourne suburb of Epping, which will be closed for three days from Monday.
The school’s principal said the staff member was a music teacher who has mild symptoms and hasn’t been in contact with students in person this year.
NZ Warriors land in Australia
Warmly greeted as the “Tamworth Warriors”, the NRL’s only overseas outfit has touched down in Australia minus two players.
Hooker Nathaniel Roache became the first footballer to fall foul of the league’s strict biosecurity protocols and David Fusitu’a was excused on compassionate grounds.
Roache was bumped from the Warriors’ chartered flight to Australia’s country-music capital after he reported feeling ill on Sunday.
He and Fusitu’a were conspicuous absentees when the New Zealand side arrived at their quarantine base in north-west NSW late on Sunday.
The new NRL nomads begin a stay of up to six months in Australia, having made an emotional farewell to their families in Auckland. It is hoped the families might be able to join up with the squad in coming weeks.
Authorities will continue to look into easing COVID-19 restrictions across the country later this week as virus cases remain low.
In the 24 hours up to Sunday afternoon, 18 new cases were reported, pushing Australia’s national total to 6799.
The national death toll from COVID-19 reached 95 on Sunday, following the death of an 83-year old in Western Australia and a 76-year-old resident at the Anglicare-run nursing home, Newmarch House, in western Sydney.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said Australia would move slowly to ease restrictions, due to fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases.
“The lessons we have learnt from overseas is that if you go too quickly and open up things too quickly, you can get a second wave,” Professor Murphy said on Sunday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said relaxing restrictions would depend on Australians signing up for the COVIDSafe app.
Some 4.25 million people have registered for the app, which was launched a week ago.
The national cabinet will consider lifting some broader curbs on Friday.
Woman dies from coronavirus in WA
An 83-year-old woman has died from coronavirus in Western Australia after contracting it from a close contact.
Premier Mark McGowan announced a fourth consecutive day of no new cases in WA.
Only 19 cases remain active after 523 recoveries.
Eight patients remain in hospital, with three in intensive care.
South Australia records 11th zero case day
South Australia has declared itself one of the safest places in the world after recording its 11th consecutive day without new coronavirus cases.
Councils have been the green light to reopen playgrounds and skate parks as the state’s total number of coronavirus cases remains at 438, with 98 per cent recovered.
Just seven cases are active, with three patients in hospital and none in intensive care.
Premier Steven Marshall said SA had done “particularly well” and the next challenge was to reboot the economy, including resuming regional tourism.