Fancy a spot of sunbathing?
Better not try it at a busy Sydney beach this summer, with authorities turning to live cameras, drones and “COVID crowd capacity ratings” to ensure physical distancing rules are followed.
Crowds are expected to flock to Sydney beaches this weekend as the weather heats up and temperatures in the high 30s and early 40s are expected over several days.
The Bureau of Meteorology said the mercury would start to rise into the high 30s on Thursday and Friday and hit 40-plus in some areas on the weekend.
Temperatures will be up to 10 to 16 degrees above the average across the state for this time of year with little relief overnight.
“NSW will not be spared with temperatures climbing easily into the mid 40s for vast swathes of the western part of the state and even into the low 40s for some coastal areas,” meteorologist Helen Reid said on Wednesday.
The heatwave would likely continue into Monday in some parts of the state with extremely hot daytime temperatures.
Authorities are already urging people to plan ahead.
Local councils want visitors to avoid peak times at Sydney beaches, remain at least a towel’s length away from others and – perhaps most disappointingly of all – not hang around after taking a dip.
Eastern Beaches PAC Commander Superintendent Rohan Cramsie warned locals they could also expect an increased police presence at some of Sydney’s busiest beaches.
“Officers will be focusing on policing licensed premises, public spaces and entertainment precincts in an effort to decrease anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related violence, while also ensuring adherence to current public health orders,” Mr Cramsie said on Wednesday.
“We want people to enjoy themselves but for police to continue to manage public safety through the pandemic, both our local communities and visitors need to work with us.”
That will also extend to the sand, where beachgoers will have to follow a stack of post-pandemic rules, including not lingering after a swim.
Beach lovers are strongly encouraged to:
- Check the COVID crowd capacity ratings and live beach cams here before leaving home;
- Wear a mask while getting to the beach if social distancing is not possible;
- Keep a towel’s length (1.5 metres) apart from other beachgoers;
- Leave the beach once they have had a swim;
- Visit outside of peak times such as during the week, early mornings and nights;
- Come back at a different time if the beach is busy.
Waverley Council took to social media this week to promote COVID safety, posting photos of its “beach ambassadors”.
“Our beach ambassadors are out and about on Bondi Beach helping us have a fun and socially distanced summer!” the council tweeted.
Randwick Mayor Danny Said also urged people to remember to social distance when heading to the beach.
“Our beaches are important destinations and our goal this summer is to keep them open. We’re asking for the public’s help – and working closely with local police – in ensuring crowd numbers don’t exceed safe capacities,” he said.
Randwick City Council has also been active on social media, promoting its “COVID beach plan”, which launched on Wednesday.
Earlier in November, Northern Beaches Council Mayor Michael Regan and Surf Life Saving NSW announced drones would be used to ensure beaches could remain open and COVID-safe.
The drones will monitor Sydney’s Northern Beaches and parks, sending real-time attendance information to council staff.
“Using this real-time data we can even more effectively manage our public spaces and reduce the COVID risk to beachgoers,” Mr Regan said.
The warnings to beach goers came as NSW confirmed its 18th consecutive day without locally acquired coronavirus cases on Wednesday.
Health authorities also issued the strongest calls yet to residents to wear a mask in public places and on public transport, as work-from-home mandates are lifted across the state.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the order requiring people to work from home would be allowed to lapse on December 14, with office workers given the all-clear to head back into Sydney’s CBD.
Elsewhere, the extreme heat and windy conditions will also bring severe fire danger to NSW on the weekend, particularly in the Northern Rivers region and north-west of the Great Dividing Range.
“It will also be quite windy so we are keeping a close eye on the fire danger which is associated with this warm, heatwave situation,” Ms Reid said.
“It is going to be quite a volatile situation.”
Meanwhile in Victoria
Premier Daniel Andrews has signalled a fresh relaxation of virus rules on December 5.
Until then Victorians remain limited to public gatherings of 50, even at the beach.
“Outdoor gatherings in a public place – the park, the beach – will increase to 50,” Mr Andrews said on Sunday.
Victoria has clocked up 26 consecutive days without any new coronavirus infections or deaths and there are no active cases across the state.
After months of strict lockdowns, Victorians have earned a well deserved pat on the back from the north.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Wednesday extended a warm invitation to “come on up” to the Sunshine State for the holidays.
South Australia remains off limits, however, as it battles the Parafield cluster.
The source of the outbreak has been traced to a hotel security guard, prompting an overhaul of the state’s hotel quarantine system.