We’ve heard it so many times now, it’s etched into our brains. Social distancing – and self isolation, and regular washing of hands – are key to limiting the spread of COVID-19, protecting the vulnerable and keeping our hospitals under capacity so those on the frontlines can do their job effectively.
In true Hermione Granger areas, I’m working hard to do the right thing. There are selfish reasons for this – my dad had open heart surgery a few years back, and is still vulnerable because of it. But I also do give a shit about, you know, people fucking dying. I would like people NOT to die from COVID-19, if we can help it.
And we can help it, but many of us choose not to help. In my area – Bondi, the far east of Sydney – I regularly see people flouting social distancing rules. It’s rare for anyone to move 1.5 metres as they pass me walking my dog in the street. I have to run on the road to avoid puffing in people’s faces, because they just don’t seem to be concerned.
I’m sure this isn’t exclusive to my area. I hear stories all the time of frustrated people trying their hardest to socially distance, only to deal with fuckwits who Just. Don’t. Care.
But the East is a unique situation. The Waverley area – which spans Bondi through to Dover Heights, right along the cliff edge of Sydney – has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the state. There was a cluster in this area as recently as the 2nd April. It’s a hot spot, and continues to be one even beyond the backpacker cluster that hit Bondi and ramped those figures up in late March.
So you’d think the NSW police would be actively patrolling the area, right? In my experience – WRONG. Even though Woollahra and Waverley councils, which are the two major councils in my area, are both listed in the “Areas for increased testing and surveillance” section of the NSW Health coronavirus information page, I’ve seen little to no evidence of actual attempts from the cops to limit social distancing in the parks and neighbourhoods.
I frequent several big parks in the area to give my dog, Millie, a run each day. There is plenty of room to practise social distancing, even though the parks are now packed with people – totally understandable, given gyms are closed and all of that.
I like to think I’m a pretty empathetic person. I can understand that this period is hard for everyone, and some rule-breaking is less detrimental than others. For example, I personally have no problem with someone going to meditate in the park, isolated, for thirty minutes – even though that’s technically illegal.
I do have a problem with people having fucking parties.
What I see the most of at my local parks are these big groups of mates, who bring their kids together to get them out of the house. There’s not one, but TWO makeshift bike ramps that have been carved into the grassy hills of Hugh Bamford Reserve in Dover Heights, where around ten kids hang out. With their parents, on weekends! I regularly see multiple families who have come together to let their kids play. I get it – having kids right now must be fucking hard. I just think you can find other ways to entertain them than, you know, breathing all over a shitload of people you don’t live with.
The worst scenario was this Sunday. I walked Millie up to the same park to find a) the bike ramp filled with kids (and parents, barely social distancing and all chattering away), and worst of all b) TWO large groups having what seemed to be arvo parties.
The wildest part? As I was walking down, a cop car slowly drove along the edge of the park. Finally, I thought, someone is going to get these mofos and give them the fines they deserve. But no. The cops just cruised past, then fucked off. The people distanced themselves temporarily, then congregated once again.
I even had a guy walking behind me with his dog, talking to his mate and laughing while saying “we just moved a bit for the police, haha”.
I think the reason this infuriates me so much is because I’m living in a coronavirus hot spot, trying to keep myself healthy to protect my parents and anyone else around me, and there are people who ALSO live in the same hotspot who just… don’t give a shit. It’s like other people’s actions could easily make all my hard work (and the hard work of others in the area) redundant.
Even if they miraculously don’t spread the virus, the real sore point for me is the attitude behind not caring about social distancing. This sense of entitlement so strong, you purposely break rules put in place temporarily to protect humanity. This absolute need to do what you want, when you want, no matter the potential consequences. It’s classic rich person bullshit, and I see it in the Bondi area all the time.
But I’m mostly mad at the police in my area, because honestly, what are you DOING? Waverley council is the TOP HOTSPOT in NSW. Of all the councils that need adequate policing when it comes to these rules, it’s Waverley that needs it the most! So why the fuck are you just casually cruising past these people, like a 30 second sighting of a cop car is going to stop assholes from socialising illegally? How is there not a police presence in my local parks during peak periods? I’d love to not feel under surveillance at all times, to be honest, but right now I’d more like to not kill more people.
Even more frustrating is seeing the incidences where the cops DO hand out fines. Journalist Osman Faruqi wrote a brilliant piece in The Saturday Paper, which revealed the huge discrepancies in the rate of COVID-19 cases and infringements across various Sydney councils.
According to his analysis, Waverley council contains 6.7% of COVID-19 cases at the time of publication, but has seen just 0.79% of infringements. In comparison, Liverpool council has just 1.6% of cases but has seen 6.8% of infringements handed out.
Faruqi says 15 per cent of all fines in the state limited to just three local government areas – Liverpool, Canterbury–Bankstown and Fairfield. This is wild to me considering only Liverpool is on the NSW Health testing/surveillance list I shared before. Not to mention the Northern Beaches and Eastern Sydney areas have more than double the amount of cases of West or South West Sydney.
I’m not saying the fines handed out in these areas of low COVID-19 cases are necessarily false. I’m sure people are breaking the social distancing rules across the state. What I am saying is that considering the suss behaviour I’ve seen in my area, it surprises me that there aren’t more infringements in Waverley and Woollahra councils. Which says to me that people simply aren’t being fined.
So what’s the deal, NSW Police? I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of the cop system to make any assumptions. But I do know that I’d like to see these entitled fucks get treated like everyone else who has been breaking the rules so obnoxiously. And right now, that’s just not happening.