A Christmas Day beach party could turn into a super-spreader event, dashing the hard work of Sydneysiders to control a potential outbreak of COVID-19, state authorities say.
Riot police had to be called to break up a large gathering at Bronte Beach on Friday afternoon, in what NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard called an “appalling” display.
Many of the fingers have been pointed at British and Irish backpackers for starting the gathering, including by the area’s mayor Paula Masselos.
Our community has worked hard to keep us COVID free for many weeks. Thank you for your diligence and sacrifice. This visitor behaviour is appalling, disrespectful and unacceptable, putting us all at risk. Thanks to the riot squad for breaking up this gathering. One person charged https://t.co/cCEyZOF6kg
— Paula Masselos (@paulamasselos) December 25, 2020
It’s not officially known who organised the party – nor what nationality they are – but a man in his 20s has been summonsed for failing to obey police orders.
But as Twitter users noted, the police who turned up to control the crowds were not wearing masks.
#BronteBeach When even the cops don't wear masks at a 'super-spreader' event, b/c the premier says they r not necessary, we long for the intelligent and courageous leadership of the Vic Premier. #nswcovid19 #bronte #GladysCluster pic.twitter.com/Din6muq0aN
— ☪️ shayne_chester_Dip_FA (@shayne_chester) December 26, 2020
The Bronte washup comes the same day as Premier Gladys Berejiklian returned Sydney’s Northern Beaches to lockdown, after a one-day Christmas reprieve.
New South Wales recorded nine locally transmitted cases on Saturday, eight of which are linked to the Avalon cluster. The Avalon cluster total now stands at 115.
As of midnight on December 26, Ms Berejiklian said Sydney’s Northern Beaches residents will no longer be able to hold indoor gatherings.
For Christmas Day, the restrictions were relaxed to allow limited household visits within certain parts of the region.
The Premier also stopped short on Saturday of calling a decision on New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations for the city, which everyone from health authorities to Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore have begged the government to cancel.
“Everybody should assume they’re watching the fireworks from home this year,” Ms Berejiklian said.
NSW recorded nine locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night, with an additional six cases in returned travellers in hotel quarantine. pic.twitter.com/khOj4aQkjN
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) December 26, 2020
“In relation to hospitality venues, everybody should assume the four square metre rule as opposed to the two square metre rule.”
The Premier said people would know “in the coming days” what they would and wouldn’t be able to do this New Year’s Eve.
Ms Berejiklian will give an update on restrictions on Tuesday – a move she’s calling “three-day, bite-sized chunks”, designed to ensure the government has the best advice possible.
“We know today the strategy we have in place is working and I want to really thank everybody for trying so hard and working so hard during what is often a time when we are all coming together,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Our strategy is to nip this in the bud.”
On Christmas Day, the Premier and health authorities urged shoppers to rethink heading to the shops for Boxing Day sales en masse, as the COVID-19 situation in Sydney remains precarious.
Footage of packed shopping centres throughout the city quickly found its way to the internet.
Paramatta Westfield today during Boxing day sales
— Nasem Allam (@nasemallam) December 26, 2020
NSW Health has almost 70 sites listed as high-alert locations for possible coronavirus exposure. See the full list here.
COVID-calm in other states
Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria all recorded zero locally acquired cases on Saturday.
WA noted six new cases in hotel quarantine from returned travellers. Queensland reported one new case in quarantine, but at the time of writing, it’s not known if that case comes from the superyacht that allegedly arrived recently from the Maldives and is now the subject of a police investigation.
Two other cases in Queensland have stemmed from the superyacht.