Get ready for summer fun in a COVID-safe way
Major parks around Sydney will have COVID-safe social distancing markings while beachgoers will be told to stay a 'towel length' from others and away from popular locations as the state government prepares for a summer like no other as coronavirus kills off Aussie traditions.
The fresh push to stops Sydneysiders packing crowded beaches are part of a five point plan launched by the state government to ensure people don't flout COVID-19 rules while enjoying the outdoors.
Under the plan, social distance markings will be implemented in parks and other major locations and multiple sets of flags could appear on beaches.
New education campaigns about keeping COVID safe at the beach will be launched, and more outdoor events will be organised.
Venues will be encouraged to embrace alfresco dining and more support will be provided to councils to promote little-known locations.
"We know how much our community loves fresh air, beaches and parklands, but we will all need to do that a bit differently this summer," Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
To bolster COVID safe events over summer, the state government is preparing to launch an ambitious year-long program including outdoor theatre, dance and art events and short films.
The program, focused on the summer months, will seek to move events traditionally held indoors out into the open to aid social distancing and contact tracing.
"Whatever you're into there'll be something for you to do this summer," Planning Minister Rob Stokes said.
More details about "The Festival Of Place" program are expected in the coming weeks after COVID-19 killed off big-ticket summer events like Tamworth Country Music Festival and Falls Festival.
The City2Surf has also been cancelled for the first-time since its inception and organisers have instead created a "virtual race" to take place on October 18 where participants will race 13.9km in their own local areas.
The state government's COVID Safe Summer plan will put a stop to the Aussie tradition of crowds at the beaches to fend off the midday heat, with Mr Stokes telling beachgoers to avoid the middle of the day and "don't hang around for too long".
To ensure COVID safety, Sydney beaches could feature multiple sets of flags to ensure social distancing.
People are being encouraged to explore their community and find new places to enjoy.
"We have huge amounts of open space, but often we don't even know exactly where it is in a local community," Mr Stokes said.
"So we're going to shine a spotlight on all the forgotten bits of parkland right across this beautiful city."
A push for outdoor dining will see patrons spill out onto footpaths by next month.
Customer Services Minister Victor Dominello is working to unlock government-controlled spaces like The Rocks and George Street for alfresco activities from October.
"We are working very closely with the city of Sydney, and I know that they are very anxious to make sure that we get our venues opened up in November," Mr Dominello said.
"This has got to be really fast and you will see results in the next month."
While low weekend testing rates are causing concern for authorities, more restrictions are set to be eased in coming days.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard last night suggested rules would be relaxed allowing both parents to watch on from the sidelines at school sport finals this weekend. He has also given the green light for school formals booked in for November 11.
Only one new locally acquired coronavirus case was reported yesterday, a household contact of a previous case linked to Concord hospital.
That case was already in quarantine so did not cause concern for health authorities, but our contract tracers were yesterday scrambling to identify passengers in nine taxi trips linked to a COVID-positive driver.
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant yesterday suggested additional measures like QR code sign-in could be put in place to increase contact tracing capacity in cabs.
"We are going to be working with the taxi industry to look at whether additional technology like the QR codes might supplement and be a good setting to have in place," Dr Chant said.
Sitting in the front seat of a cab is now discouraged, with people instead told to sit on the back left seat - diagonally opposite from the driver.
The state government's COVID-safe summer plan was yesterday welcomed by beachgoers looking to soak up the spring sun.
Surfers and sunbathers at Bondi were careful to space out during the 30 degree heat yesterday.
University student Allira Barclay said she enjoyed the sun and sand as "a change of scene" from her inner-city lifestyle and she would "definitely" obey any rules set out for beachgoers during summer.
"People are more aware now, they know we need to spread out … even if it means being a towel length away," Ms Barclay said.
Ms Barclay is originally from San Diego and said hordes of people crowding onto US beaches during the pandemic made her "nervous" for summer in Australia.
"I'm a bit nervous as the weather gets warmer, people will forget the rules quickly when it gets hot," she said.
Meanwhile Mt Druitt resident Lydia Alderton, wouldn't like to see people banned from enjoying the water this summer due to coronavirus restrictions.
"I think it would be pretty unfair," she said.
The 17 year old has been going to the Nepean River all her life.
"We have a caravan on the river and a boat so we ski all the time.
Her brother Jack, 14, has a weak immune system and hasn't been able to do much because of the virus.
"It's just been really good being able to get out of the house today," he said.
Originally published as Get ready for summer fun in a COVID-safe way