Coronavirus has infected “several” backpackers near Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach, which has been shut down after hundreds ignored urgent public health warnings.
NSW Health on Sunday confirmed 97 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s tally to 533.
Of those 533 cases, 46 have been contracted locally without an identified source of infection.
“Several new diagnoses of COVID-19 have been made in backpackers in the Bondi area,” NSW Health said on Sunday in a statement.
“There were two recent parties that some of the cases attended where the cases may have acquired their infections.”
Those two parties were the Boogie Wonderland party at the Bucket List on March 15 and a party at Club 77 on the same date.
A childcare worker from the Smeaton Grange Young Academics Centre has also been infected with COVID-19.
Any children or staff who went to the centre between March 2 and March 16 are being told to self isolate.
All beaches in Sydney’s eastern suburbs have been closed on Sunday, including Bondi, Tamarama, Maroubra and Coogee.
NSW Police Minister David Elliott said about 450 people who showed up at Bondi Beach on Sunday morning were told to leave.
“We are not doing this because we are the fun police. We don’t close these public spaces because we want to punish people,” he told Channel 7’s Weekend Sunrise.
“Some people are just stupid and want to take the risk. Some people think they are above the law.”
The beaches are closed after images of people cramming on to Bondi Beach were widely condemned amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said authorities may need to crack down even harder if people continue to ignore public health warnings.
“What happened at Bondi Beach yesterday was not OK and served as a message to federal and state leaders that too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“State premiers and chief ministers may have to take far more draconian measures to enforce social distancing.
“The more Australians themselves assist us in this fight against the virus to protect lives and livelihoods, the more and better able we are to ensure that Australia comes out stronger on the other side.”
Italy three weeks ago: 229 confirmed cases of COVID-19
Australia now: 876 confirmed cases
Italy now: 41,035 cases and 3,405 deaths
Bondi beach now: pic.twitter.com/2Js78OQwID
— Isabelle Truman (@isabelletruman) March 20, 2020
Under regulations introduced to control the spread of the deadly virus, outdoor gatherings of 500 people or more have been banned.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard urged young people to take the COVID-19 threat seriously, saying “the problem is just over the horizon, on the basis of the numbers that we’re now seeing”.
“It’s a serious matter. Save yourself and save your family,” Mr Hazzard told reporters on Saturday.