News State NSW News Backlash forces police to withdraw fines slapped on drivers in virus test queues

Backlash forces police to withdraw fines slapped on drivers in virus test queues

sydney virus police fine
The long queue for COVID testing at Bondi on Monday. Photo: Getty
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NSW Police have withdrawn a stack of fines imposed on drivers queuing for coronavirus tests in Bondi, after sparking outrage.

“Common sense has prevailed,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Monday of the backdown on the fines.

“The overwhelming response from the community has just been fantastic and we want everybody to keep it up.”

NSW Police slapped the penalties on motorists who were caught using their phones while they waited up to six hours for virus tests on Saturday, amid the outbreak that is spreading across Sydney.

The outbreak grew to 90 cases on Tuesday. There were seven more infections, including one in a Victorian teenager who recently returned home after holidaying in the Northern Beaches.

It has also sparked a quasi-lockdown of 250,000 people and renewed state border closures as authorities try to bring it under control.

There has been record demand for virus testing across Sydney as the outbreak has emerged – with more than 35,000 tests reported on Monday and more than 40,000 on Tuesday. The queues have been hours long at many of the city’s testing stations.

On Saturday, nine people were slapped with $349 fines and given five demerit points each while waiting at the Bondi pop-up testing centre.

Many people who were waiting at the Bondi testing centre reported police were patrolling the queues on Saturday, and fining anyone found using their mobile phone during the long wait.

It is illegal to hold and use a mobile phone at any time while driving.

One woman told News Corp she saw officers taking photos of licence plates and issuing fines to people near her in line.

She said she was using her Kindle device to read while she waited – and was told by an officer she was “lucky” it wasn’t a mobile phone.

Another woman reported being spoken to by police when an officer saw her playing with her phone with her dog on her lap. Her car’s ignition was off at the time, but she was threatened with two tickets nonetheless.

“I felt like going ‘get stuffed, I’m trying to do the right thing here’,” she told the Daily Mail.

On Monday, Ms Berejiklian again thanked Sydney-siders for turning out in huge numbers to get tested, and for following reimposed virus rules.

“When we saw the number of tests come through and the way in which people are complying, it really does give us a boost to know that the measures we have in place, plus the way the community is responding are really supporting us in getting on top of this latest outbreak,” she said.