Authorities say they are “dumbfounded” and “disappointed” in the organisers and attendees of a dance party that saw more than 1000 people gather on a private property at Wilson’s Creek, near Byron Bay, in a gross violation of statewide coronavirus rules.
Under current New South Wales COVID-19 restrictions only 20 people are allowed to gather in a home at any one time.
Detective Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe, of the Tweed/Byron Police, said the ‘doof’ was one in a spate of recent gatherings that were in violation of the restrictions.
He said on the same weekend, police were also called to a house party in Byron Bay, where the number of people was estimated to be around 200 — 10 times the legal limit.
“It is very disappointing,” he said.
“You can still have a good, smaller party, but certainly don’t go to the extremes that we’ve seen in the last few days.”
Chief Inspector Kehoe said the organisers and attendees of events that breach public health orders could face hefty fines, although police chose not to issue any at those two events.
“One was dealt with under the noise abatement directions and it was shut down,” he said.
“Our regime is to educate to warn them, and if the behaviour continues we will consider fining people.
“At least on these occasions those people, once they were spoken to, saw what the issues were and those parties were closed down.”
Individuals can face a maximum penalty of $11,000, or six months imprisonment, for breaching the Public Health Act.
Health authorities slam ‘foolish’ doof
The head of the Northern NSW Local Health District, Wayne Jones, has slammed the actions of the partygoers, saying it was a “bewildering” act of disregard for the entire community that had been working extremely hard to stop the spread of virus.
“We would certainly have to invest a huge amount of resources to try and do the contact tracing, and I’m fairly confident there wouldn’t be a register of attendees available or contact phone numbers,” he said.
Mr Jones said it had been 69 days since the last confirmed COVID-19 case in the Northern NSW Local Health District, but a gathering of that size could easily put the region on a trajectory worse than Victoria.
“Events like this just create an opportunity for spread far greater than what we’re even seeing in Victoria,” he said.
“The Victorian situation was a handful of people who have travelled around.
“We’re talking 1,000 people congregating and disregarding physical distancing and, I’m sure, disregarding a range of safety measures.
“It could potentially be quite, quite damning on our numbers in the North Coast.”
“[We have] an amazing level of concern that people believe that they can congregate to 1,000 people and disregard physical distancing and put at risk not only themselves, but the entire community of the North Coast,” he said.
“We were absolutely dumbfounded.”
Mr Jones said there would be enormous challenges for trace contacting should even one of the attendees test positive to COVID-19.
Mr Jones said the event could also result in a return tighter restrictions for the entire community.
“It’s breaches like this that put the risk of reducing isolation even greater,” he said.
“It only takes a handful of very foolish individuals to do something that puts that entire opportunity at risk.”
The Northern NSW Local Health District is urging anyone who has attended large events and has even the mildest of symptoms to get tested.