While huge numbers of Australians are working from home, avoiding restaurant dining, cancelling plans and isolating in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19, it seems that the message has not gotten through to all. Photos taken yesterday in Sydney show large numbers of punters flocking to Bondi Beach, in defiance of warnings about social distancing.

The government has imposed strict limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings and advised people to stay at least a metre and a half apart. This week, Australia closed its borders to non-residents, telling international arrivals to isolate for 14 days. You would not know this from looking at photos of Bondi Beach, though, as the iconic Sydney spot was packed with people enjoying the sun and the sand.

The Associated Press image above was taken yesterday at the beach. 60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort also captured a photo of Friday’s crowds, and despairingly captioned it ‘Social distancing in Bondi’:

One US backpacker told The Daily Telegraph:

“We figure none of us have any symptoms, due to our age the virus is unlikely to get us, and we’re more likely to get it in New York City where there are double the amount of cases than the 300 in Australia. I’m not nervous. I’m young. I feel my body can handle it.”

At 6.30am yesterday, there were actually 709 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, an increase of 144 from the day before. Today’s tally of confirmed cases is at 877.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted that telling people to self-isolate may not be working, saying:

“We are hearing reports of some who are saying they’re in self isolation and they’re out and about. In many cases for the young and the healthy, it is true that the majority of cases, 8 out of 10 people only have a mild illness … but by you doing the right thing, you’ll be saving the life of someone who is more vulnerable. So do it for your fellow Australians.”

In a press conference yesterday, New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that people should “by all means” still enjoy the beach, but pleaded with punters to heed warnings. He told reporters:

“We are in a different time. We need to behave in different ways and that is to keep your distance. The recommendation is at least 1.5 metres. That is a sensible recommendation that people should sensibly take on board.”

Image: Getty Images / John Fotiadis