By ALLISON HORE
Data released by NSW Health on 26 March reveals that Waverley is one of NSW’s hotspots for COVID-19. The area, which includes Bondi, Bronte, Tamarama and Vaucluse, recorded 105 infected out of NSW’s total of 1,405, the highest number of cases in the state.
Nearby suburbs also recorded high counts of confirmed COVID-19 cases, Woollahra has 66 cases and Sydney City 69, according to the most recent data at the time of writing. At least eight of the Waverly-based people confirmed to have COVID-19 caught it without travelling overseas or having any known contact with a confirmed case.
Social distancing essential
Mayor of Waverly, Paula Masselos, released a statement on 27 March urging all people within the Waverly area to stay aware of social distancing recommendations and to respect the NSW government’s restrictions.
“I cannot stress to you enough that we need to be more vigilant than ever in following social distancing. It is now more important than ever,” she said. “I am appealing to the community to take ownership of their health and respect the restrictions we have in place. “I also ask you to continue to respect our Lifeguards and Rangers who are working hard to keep the community safe.”
Ms. Masselos said that although council rangers do not have the authority to enforce the social distancing measures put in place by the NSW government, they will issue fines to people who enter closed-off areas.
Areas closed by Waverly Council include: Waverley Library; Margaret Whitlam Recreation Centre; Bondi Pavilion; Bronte Pool; community halls; playgrounds and synthetic playing fields. The closures also extend to all beaches in the Waverly council areas.
“We are not making these decisions to close our facilities and spaces lightly,” Ms. Masselos explained. “We are doing so in consideration of the advice from the Australian and NSW Governments and will continue to implement measures to help keep our community safe.”
On Friday 20 March, images of Sydney-siders disregarding social-distancing recommendations to kick back on Bondi beach went viral online, prompting a barrage of public disapproval. The following day, crowds again flocked to Bondi Beach and neighbouring beaches Bronte and Tamarama.
New South Wales police and emergency services minister, David Elliott, instructed lifeguards to close any beach where a head count indicated more than 500 people were present, and warned NSW police officers would enforce the closure.
“What we saw this morning at Bondi Beach was the most irresponsible behaviour of individuals that we’ve seen so far,” Mr. Elliott said at a press conference at Bondi on Saturday afternoon.
Throughout the week further restrictions were rolled out, with the beaches closed entirely.
Members of the community also raised concerns about backpacker hostels in the beach area. This concern came after a coronavirus outbreak among groups of backpackers and tourists who attended the Bucket List party at the Bondi Pavilion and another party at Club 77 in Darlinghurst, on 15 March.
Ms. Masselos said Waverley Council were carrying out on-site inspections to ensure hostels are complying with all of their planning approvals and are providing tenants with facts sheets from NSW Health. She hoped that, despite the seriousness of the circumstances, Sydney-siders will take a positive approach to dealing with the coronavirus restrictions.
“I want to reiterate that now is a time to be kind. These are difficult times for everyone. Please stay safe and be good to one another,” she said.