Anyone found to be breaking the two-person gathering rule or otherwise leaving their home without a ‘reasonable’ purpose could be issued an on-the-spot fine of $11,000, it was announced yesterday evening by NSW health minister Brad Hazzard. Previously the penalty for breaking physical distancing guidelines was $1,000. It’s the most severe measure yet to be introduced by the NSW government since the Covid-19 pandemic reached Australian shores.
But if Sydneysiders needed any more incentive to follow the strict physical distancing regulations introduced in recent weeks, surely this morning’s daily press briefing from the NSW premier was it. Just ten days after thousands of people flouted physical distancing on Bondi Beach, a ‘cluster’ of infections has been found within the Bondi and Waverley areas, largely within the backpacker community. The discovery of the outbreak, which is now considered ‘under control’, is confirmation that without major social restrictions, the coronavirus causing the respiratory disease Covid-19 is able to spread quickly, even among those deemed low risk.
The state will be ramping up its testing rates, both in Sydney city and rural areas, to ensure other pockets of infection aren’t taking hold, although Dr Kerry Chant, the NSW chief medical officer, warned that supplies of testing kits were finite and should be used efficiently. Testing will be carried out at medical centres but also pop-up testing hubs in significant areas such as Bondi.