Police were called to shut down a gathering of backpackers on the first day of NSW’s tight new lockdown restrictions, after a tip-off from neighbours.
Footage obtained by 7News shows officers entering the common area of a Kings Cross hostel where 11 people were kicking back with a few drinks, before dispersing the group.
The Tuesday night operation was a part of NSW Police’s crackdown on all non-essential gatherings.
Under new lockdown rules, individuals gathering in groups of more than two people can be slapped with fines of up to $11,000. The backpackers were let off with a warning.
A group of backpackers is lucky not to have faced NSW’s new tough coronavirus penalties after they were spotted drinking together on a hostel rooftop in Kings Cross. https://t.co/l4lIQR2ivv #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/yiIj7HONDG
— 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) March 31, 2020
If this were to be considered a public space, they would be in breach of the 1.5-metre rule and ban on non-essential gatherings. However, the backpackers argued they should be treated as members of the same household because the hostel is their place of residence.
Lockdown regulations do not make explicit mention of accommodation common areas, and hotels and hostels such as this remain open as “essential” businesses.
The news comes after a pop-up COVID-19 clinic was announced for Bondi as NSW Health tries to manage “active clusters” of the virus in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Several backpackers in the area have already tested positive for the disease after attending large parties at the Bondi Pavilion and Club 77 in Darlinghurst.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said no infringements had been issued anywhere in the state just yet, despite many people being being moved on my police on Tuesday.
“If people continue to flout the rules and ignore the message, then tickets will be issued,” he said.