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COVID-19 Forces Closure of Australia’s Beaches in Sydney

A sign tells surfers to leave once they have finished surfing at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, as coronavirus pandemic restrictions are eased. The beach is open to swimmers and surfers to exercise only. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

COVID-19 restrictions have forced beaches to close near Australia’s biggest city as scorching spring temperatures sent thousands of people to the coast. Beachgoers also were warned to stay away from Sydney’s most famous arc of sand at Bondi as it neared capacity.

Heading to the coast is a quintessential Australian past-time. But warmer weather in the southern hemisphere is testing the nation’s plans to keep the coronavirus at bay. Visitor numbers are now limited, and two beaches south of Sydney were closed to avoid overcrowding.

Swimmers also were told to avoid Bondi and Coogee, as thousands of people flocked to two of Sydney’s most popular arcs of sand.

COVID-19 marshals and the police have been on patrol to ensure people stayed a towel-length apart. The authorities have said the public’s response has been encouraging.

But beachgoers have had mixed opinions about the safety measures.

Australia has recorded about 27,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, and 900 people have died. Most states and territories have managed to contain the coronavirus.

Queensland has reported no new infections in the past day. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the community is heeding hygiene and distancing advice.

“Once again I just want to congratulate Queenslanders for the great work that they have done. The results that we have had because of our health response has been because Queenslanders have listened. We have seen that time and time again, whether it is dealing with cyclones and natural disasters, whether it is dealing with bushfires, Queenslanders come together. It is an incredible story,” Palaszczuk said.

Lockdown measures, however, still apply in the city of Melbourne. Residents can only leave home for essential activities. Health officials there have said that restrictions will ease later this month if infection rates continue to fall.