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For those in Sydney’s coastal suburbs, Sunday was a last chance to enjoy the warm winter weather mask-free before tight new lockdown restrictions kick in at midnight.
They took to the beaches and parks of Manly, Bondi, Bronte and Coogee in their thousands to turn their bodies to the skies and soak up the sun ahead of the deadline.
The lockdown weary residents in the city’s gritty western suburbs would have looked on enviously. They are already under some of Australia’s most draconian Covid emergency measures.
They’ve been forced to wear masks whenever they leave home for more than a week now. From Monday though, they won’t even be allowed to leave their homes after 9pm, with or without a mask.
It was bare-faced cheek in Sydney’s east on Sunday as locals made the most of the weather to enjoy the sun mask-free. Seen here are sunbathers at Bronte Beach
Sydneysiders in the city’s east took to the beaches and parks of Manly, Bondi, Bronte and Coogee in their thousands, Seen here is a woman exercising in Coogee on Sunday. Seen here is a woman , left, walking in Coogee, while another woman exercises in Bondi on Sunday
NSW Police and Health are concerned people in their 20s are catching and spreading Covid. On Sunday alone, 195 of the 830 new cases were all aged 20-29. Seen here are two women walking together in Bondi on Sunday
NEW RESTRICTIONS FOR THOSE IN THE 12 LGAS OF CONCERN
From 12.01am Monday August 23, the new rules will apply for residents and businesses in the LGAs of concern
- Curfews will be introduced from 9pm to 5am, except for authorised workers, emergencies or medical care, to help reduce the movement of young people
- Outdoor exercise is limited to one hour per day
- Click and collect only at garden centres and plant nurseries, office supplies, hardware and building , landscaping material , rural supplies, and pet supplies. Tradies are allowed to shop in-store where relevant
- All exams and other education or professional development related activities will move online, not including the HSC.
Under the terms of the strict new curfew restrictions, the world has shrunk once more for residents in the city’s 12 local council areas of concern.
They are now banned from the streets and confined to their home between 9pm and 5am unless they have prior approval, need medical attention or it’s an emergency.
It’s a desperate throw of the dice by New South Wales to try to bring the spiralling Covid numbers under control – although premier Gladys Berejiklian admits there’s no health reason behind the curfew.
Instead it is a request from NSW Police, sanctioned by NSW Health, in a bid to keep people at home in the hope that it limits the transfer of the disease from home to home.
The state reported back to back record numbers of Covid cases over the weekend with 825 on Saturday and another 830 on Sunday – the worst numbers ever seen in Australia since the pandemic began 18 months ago – sparking the new tighter restrictions
NSW Heath have admitted the most dangerous place to catch Covid is at home, from someone in your own family, but the next most likely place to catch it is by visiting a family member or friend.
‘We’re still seeing people perhaps inadvertently or not realising that it’s such a dangerous thing to do,’ admitted NSW deputy chief medical officer Dr Jeremy McAnulty last week.
Police hope the curfew will mean they can take control of the streets and limit movement between homes, and also of younger residents, with those in their 20s making up a quarter of the new infections in Sydney’s west and south-west last week.
On Sunday alone, 195 of the 830 new cases were all aged 20-29.
Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Worboys said the tight restrictions would stop ‘young men wanting to leave their home and go about various engagements and activities through all hours of the night’.
‘This curfew will signal that this is the time that that sort of behaviour must stop,’ Deputy Commissioner Warboys said.
‘Police will be out and they will take action and we just hope that everyone makes some sense of this and realises that we all have a part to play on this.’
Lockdown weary residents in the city’s gritty western suburbs are under some of Australia’s most draconian Covid emergency measures. Seen here is a shopworker in Bankstown on Sunday
Residents in the 12 LGAs of concern have been forced to wear masks whenever they leave home for weeks now. Seen here are signs telling shoppers of the requirements, right, and a woman shopper, left, wearing her mask in Auburn on Sunday
Locals in the 12 LGAs of concern in Sydney’s west now face a curfew from 9pm until 5am. A woman, left, is seen here carrying her shopping bags in Bankstown on Sunday. Under the curfew restrictions no-one will be allowed to leave their home without prior approval unless it is for medical attention or an emergency. A woman in Bankstown is pictured on the right while exercising on Sunday
The curfew, starting on Monday, is a desperate bid by NSW to bring spiralling Covid numbers back down. Seen here are shoppers in Bankstown on Sunday
NEW POLICE POWERS
Special powers have also been given to the NSW Police Force including:
- Power for the Commissioner of Police to lock down apartment blocks while NSW Health assesses the COVID risk
- Power for the Commissioner of Police to declare a residential premise a COVID-risk and order all people to present to police during compliance checks
- Powers to allow police to order anyone issued with an infringement notice to return home
- If a person from outside an LGA of concern is found in an LGA of concern without reasonable excuse, they will be fined $1000 and required to isolate at home for 14 days.
But the premier refuses to apply the same rules across the state or even the city, infuriating local leaders who believe the south-west is being targeted.
Nineteen Labor councillors from nine of the LGAs under the curfew order – Liverpool, Fairfield, Cumberland, Canterbury-Bankstown, Blacktown, Parramatta, Campbelltown, Georges River – wrote an open letter demanding equal treatment across Greater Sydney.
The letter said doing so would ‘reunite the city’ and make it easier for those living in linguistically diverse communities to understand the rules.
‘It has fermented a dangerous undercurrent of resentment in our community, creating a deep divide between the “LGAs of concern” and the rest of Sydney,’ the open letter read.
But Ms Berejiklian insisted the only way out of the crisis was to target restrictions to match what resources were available and for people to obey the lockdown and get vaccinated.
‘This is nothing Australia has seen before. Even in very strict and harsh lockdowns, the virus is spreading,’ she said.
‘That is a fact. What we need to do is protect ourselves and loved ones by staying at home and getting vaccinated.’
While the west awaited a curfew, there was little thought of staying home while the sun was shining and temperatures soared to the mid 20s. seen here are two beachgoers at Coogee on Sunday
The crowds are expected to return to the coast on Monday when temperatures are tipped to hit 27C, but masks will now be mandatory. Seen here are people lining the seafront at Little Manly Beach on Sunday
People will be allowed to take the mask off while exercising but must put it back on if they are close to other people, say police. Beachgoers at Coogee are seen here on Sunday
Anyone exercising must have a mask with them so they can put it on if anyone comes close to them. Women exercising in Sydney’s Centennial Park are seen above working out on Sunday
Outdoor recreation such as sunbathing or reading in a park is now forbidden under the new restrictions but exercise is still allowed. A man is seen here riding a bike in Centennial Park on Sunday
In the city’s east on Sunday though, there was little thought of staying home while the sun was shining and temperatures soared to the mid 20s.
Mask-free beach-goers enjoyed a dip in the ocean and a bake in the sun while crowds flocked to coastal walks and hundreds more exercised in the lush green parklands that thread through the eastern suburbs.
There has been little-to-no evidence of Covid transmitting outside in Australia, with officials saying outdoor leisure while socially-distancing is a perfectly safe activity.
And for those in 5km areas surrounded by lush parks and beaches, the biggest cause for concern was whether walking to the shops would count as exercise and if they would then need to wear a mask as of Monday morning.
Outdoor recreation – such as sunbathing and reading in a park – is already banned in the 12 LGAs of concern.
Sydneysiders in the east flocked to the lush green parklands. Seen are two women running Centennial Park on Sunday
Rules defining exercise in relation to masks have been a source of confusion for some. Two women walking at Coogee Beach are pictured here on Sunday
Police advise locals to use their common sense on whether they need to wear a mask. A woman is pictured here walking her dachshund
Masks will be mandatory outdoors from midnight on Sunday (pictured, walkers at Little Manly Beach enjoying the sunshine on Sunday)
ADDITIONAL RESTRICTIONS FOR LGAs OF CONCERN
The following new restrictions around workplaces and authorised workers from the LGAs of concern are also being introduced:
- Childcare workers and disability support workers who live or work in the LGAs of concern must have their first vaccination dose by August 30
- Authorised workers who work outside their LGA of concern are only permitted to work if rapid antigen testing is implemented at their work-site or they have had their first vaccination dose by August 30.
- From August 28, authorised workers from LGAs of concern are required to carry a permit from Service NSW declaring they are authorised workers and can’t work from home
- And also from August 28, anyone entering an LGA of concern for the work must carry a worker permit issued by Service NSW.
Masks must now be worn outside across the state at all times except when exercising, but NSW Police said anyone walking only needed to wear masks when near others.
‘In terms of exercising, people do not have to wear a mask but where you are exercising in a place where there are crowds of people or where you think you will end up in a situation where people will be close by,’ deputy commissioner Warboy said on Sunday.
‘You have to carry it so if you feel that your safety, if you feel that people are too close, why not put that mask on?’
He called on people to use common sense.
‘When I go to the shop, when I go to purchase a cup of coffee, when I get out of the car, I put my mask on, do my business and get back in the car,’ he said.
Restrictions in the 12 LGAs of concern continue to tighten (pictured, an essential worker in Bankstown on Sunday)
Thousands of Sydneysiders are not lucky enough to live within 5km distance of a beach (pictured, shoppers in hotspot LGA Bankstown on Sunday)
‘In terms of exercising to get a cup of coffee or to get something from the shop, there must be a point in time where you stop exercising and you actually move among people or towards the shop and I would suggest you put a mask on.
‘It is just common sense that you would put that mask on. I don’t really think it is that hard and I certainly don’t think it is confusing.’
On Monday though, the test will be to see if there is as much common sense as there was flesh on show in Sydney’s east on Sunday.
With temperatures tipped to hit 27C, big crowds are expected to return to the seaside idylls.
Sydneysiders in Bankstown are seen waiting to get vaccinated on Sunday while other areas of the city enjoyed an unseasonably warm day