Police swoop on backpacker hostel party
NSW Police were called to a noisy rooftop party at a Kings Cross backpacker hostel last night where revellers were clearly flouting social distancing rules.
But despite warnings Aussies could face on-the-spot fines of up to $11,000 under draconian coronavirus public health measures, the group were let off with a warning.
The footage obtained by 7 News shows a group of 11 revellers surrounded by cans and bottles, clearly breaching the 1.5-metre social distancing rule.
Officers can be seen entering the hostel and breaking up the gathering, after being tipped off by concerned neighbours.
According to 7 News, the group argued that they were all residents of the premises and so technically they weren't in breach.
NSW Police confirmed officers attended the hostel at about 7.15pm last night in response to a noise complaint.
"Officers spoke with management and reminded them of their social distancing obligations in accordance with ministerial directions under the Public Health Act," NSW Police said in a statement.
"No further action was required."
It comes as the state Labor opposition embraces the crackdown and calls for harsher penalties for backpackers flouting the rules.
"If the international backpackers are still gathering in parks or having parties in their backyards, and breaking the social distancing laws, then they should feel the full brunt of the law," Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord said in a statement.
"I live in North Bondi and I do not want to see a friend or neighbour infected and possibly die due to the egotistical activity of an international backpacker."
Mr Secord said he supported increased police surveillance and actual police visits to backpacker hostels in Sydney's east. Labor says while there are five formally approved backpacker hostels in the Waverley area, it's believed there are up to 50 in total.
In a statement this morning, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said no infringements had been issued so far under the new powers that came into effect at midnight on Monday.
"In the last 24 hours only one infringement has been issued in the entire state for a breach of self-isolation and that infringement does not relate to increased powers in place since midnight Monday," Mr Fuller said.
"I am on the record that NSW Police Force continues to use discretion in applying these regulations and the community must continue to work with police and the government to ensure the safety of everyone in NSW."
He added, "If people continue to flout the rules and ignore the message, then tickets will be issued."
Yesterday, NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said COVID-19 testing would be ramped up in suburbs like Bondi and Waverley where there were outbreaks believed to be linked to "infected backpackers".
"We know there is a potential risk that other members of the community may have come in contact with infected backpackers," Dr Chant said.
"We have had a small number of cases in that community where there aren't obvious links, but a plausible explanation is they have come into contact with an infected backpacker before that backpacker was aware they had COVID-19."
According to NSW Health, the South Eastern Sydney region - which Bondi falls under in this categorisation - has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the state at 450.
As of Monday night, there were 140 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Waverley local government area - which takes in Bondi - 79 in Woollahra and 48 in Randwick.
Earlier this month, NSW Health confirmed "several" Bondi backpackers had tested positive for coronavirus after hundreds ignored public health warnings not to gather in large groups.
"There were two recent parties that some of the cases attended where the cases may have acquired their infections," NSW Health said on March 22.
Those two parties were the Boogie Wonderland party at the Bucket List on March 15 and a party at Club 77 on the same date.
Originally published as Police swoop on backpacker hostel party