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Crowds in the water at Bondi Beach
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Authorities have closed Bondi Beach as images of crowds defying social distancing rules condemned online

Maxim Boon

Sunny Friday evenings are the perfect time to head to the beach, and as Sydney’s most iconic sandy stretch, Bondi is an obvious go-to for some post-work fun in the sun. Or at least it would be, if not for the current health emergency the continues to spread across Australia, most prevalently in Greater Sydney.

However, despite the government’s repeated pleas for the public to exercise social distancing in order to slow the transmission of the pandemic disease COVID-19, thousands of beachgoers flocked to Bondi yesterday evening, seemingly ignoring all advice about remaining 1.5 meters apart and avoiding crowded places.

In response, the NSW government at the behest of the NSW Police Minister David Elliot, has now closed Bondi Beach, effective as of Saturday afternoon. More closures will follow if similar scenes of reckless gatherings are repeated at any of Sydney’s other beaches, authorities have warned. The closure was the latest in a series of public restrictions put in place this week limiting the number of people permitted at an outdoor gathering (500 or less) and an indoor gathering (100 or less, with at least 4 square metres space per person).

Images of a packed Bondi Beach have gone viral on social media, attracting widespread criticism from around the world. They also drew particular ire from Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who scolded Sydneysiders saying the scenes from Bondi were “unacceptable”.

NSW continues to lead the country in terms of the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as the daily rate of infection. As of 6.30am on Saturday, March 21, the total number of COVID-19 cases in NSW had reached 382, compared to 184 in Queensland, 178 in Victoria, 64 in WA, 8 in Tasmania, 6 in the ACT and 2 in Northern Territory. In Australia, 7 people have died from the disease so far. Daily updates on the infection rates can be found on the website.

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