News State NSW News Police issue $35,000 in fines over churchgoers’ COVID breach

Police issue $35,000 in fines over churchgoers’ COVID breach

church covid breach
There were arrests across NSW on the weekend. Photo: NSW Police
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NSW Police have issued 31 fines after finding a crowd at a church service in a COVID hotspot area in Sydney’s west on Sunday night.

Police went to Christ Embassy Sydney church in Blacktown about 7.30pm on Sunday after being tipped off about a gathering in breach of public health orders.

They found a group of about 60 adults and children inside the Fourth Avenue building, involved in a sermon.

Police say there was no QR code at the entrance and some of the congregation came from other COVID-19 hot-spot local government areas, including Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool.

Thirty adults were fined $1000 each and the church was slapped with a $5000 penalty.

Police Minister David Elliott said he was “quite stunned” by the reckless behaviour, saying if major cathedrals could stream services then suburban churches can as well.

“Churches are there to profess the message of hope and love and to have those people endanger communities … is extraordinary,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Monday.

It came as NSW confirmed another 818 local COVID cases and three more deaths on Monday. The toll from the outbreak that began in Bondi in mid-June has risen to 74.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the rule-defying church service was “disheartening”.

“I think that all of us feel the disappointment when people just blatantly ignore what’s in place,” she said.

“We know it is hard.

“I’m hoping that obviously in the near future, we’ll be able to relieve the stress on families and households.

“But it’s always disheartening and disappointing when you see people blatantly take it upon themselves to contradict what we know works.”

Earlier, there were eight arrests and more than 50 fines issued after hundreds of people gathered at the Queensland-NSW border on Sunday to protest changes to entry requirements between the states.

Among them was a man on a large white horse.

NSW Police said protesters had crossed the border between Queensland at Coolangatta and NSW at Tweed Heads.

Mr Elliott said he was incredibly disappointed in the selfish actions of the border protesters.

“Communities across NSW are sick and tired of the abhorrent actions of the minority. We have seen this sort of behaviour result in further lockdowns; the very thing these individuals are protesting against,” he said on Sunday.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we risk seeing lockdowns extended, affecting the entirety of NSW, because of actions such as what we’ve seen this afternoon.

The fines came as virus measures were tightened across Sydney. People in hotspots are subject to a night-time curfew and everyone in NSW must wear masks outside their homes.

All of NSW is in lockdown and police have ramped up enforcement of restrictions as authorities battle to contain the spread of the Delta strain.

Lockdown settings will remain in place in regional NSW until at least August 28 and in greater Sydney until at least September 30.

-with AAP