Three popular Sydney beaches were closed again on Friday afternoon as crowds flocked to swim and relax in the autumn sun, flouting coronavirus restrictions in the process.
The beaches in the Randwick Council area, including Coogee, Maroubra and Clovelly, had been open to the public for just a couple of days after being shut for a month under coronavirus restrictions.
But about 1pm on Friday, mounted police and lifeguards ushered beachgoers out of the water and off the sand as the council said people hadn’t been following the rules.
“By and large a lot of people are doing the right thing but what we found was in the middle of the day a lot of people were gathering on the beach, playing in the water and cooling down from the hot weather – these are not legitimate reasons to leave home,” a council spokesman said.
“We had put out a pretty stern warning to say even though it’s 28 degrees, it’s not the day to come to the beach and have a fun leisurely day.
“You need to be surfing or swimming or jogging and doing some legitimate exercise.”
It came as Australia’s coronavirus fatalities rose again on Friday, with the deaths of a cruise ship passenger in Western Australia and a Tasmanian woman in Launceston. The national toll was at 79 on Friday afternoon (AEST).
Sydney’s beaches will be open again on Saturday, but the spokesman would not rule out closing them if COVID-19 “exercise-only” limits continued to be ignored. The council might also consider restricting entry to the beaches, he said.
“While we’re expecting warm weather conditions this weekend, people should not be planning a day at the beach,” Randwick Mayor Danny Said told the Nine Network.
“The stay at home public health orders remain in place, which require people to not leave their homes unless it is for essential reasons, including exercise.
“This means people should not be hopping in their cars to travel to our beaches.”
Earlier, NSW’s top cop warned that crowds would be monitored at Sydney beaches, with the city expecting sunny maximum temperatures in the mid-20s on Saturday and Sunday.
“We hope people go down there and exercise, have a swim, then dry off and go home, and really give someone else the opportunity to go down to the beach,” NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.
He added, with a smile, that he was also hoping for rain – although the weather bureau suggested he was likely to be disappointed.
Despite the beaches being open, sunbaking or gathering on the sand remains banned. Ocean pools – which were closed with the beaches on March 28 – remain off-limits.
Elsewhere, swimmers and surfers will be allowed back into the water at Bondi and other Waverley Council beaches from Tuesday, through strictly managed corridors on the sand.
Bondi Beach was closed on March 21 after images of thousands of sunbathers crowded on the sand sparked condemnation across the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Waverley Council announced the change this week – but it came with a warning.
“We are not reopening our beaches,” the council said in a Facebook post.
“Our beaches remain closed to all land-based activities (no gathering, sunbaking, walking or jogging) and access to the water is via designated entry points managed by rangers.
“If rules are not complied with, we’ll have no choice but to remove access to the water across all our beaches.
UPDATE ON WAVERLEY'S BEACHES 🏄♀️🌊 🏊 From next Tuesday 28 April we will be implementing ‘Swim & Go’ and ‘Surf & Go’…
Further north, beaches on the Gold Coast also opened earlier this week after being closed due to crowds breaching social distancing measures.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said Surfer’s Paradise and Coolangatta beaches were open for locals only.
“I want to discourage out-of-towners from coming to our beaches. It is not essential travel. Stay within your postcode,” he said.