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Australian police court controversy by praising beachgoers
TORONTO -- Questions are being raised about how police in Western Australia are dealing with beachgoers amid government-mandated orders to stay home to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
The Western Australia Police Force shared footage taken from its drone that captured a bird's-eye view of a beach with hundreds of sunbathers, swimmers and surfers enjoying the weather.
The force also shared a photo to its Facebook page on Friday showing dozens of people spread out along a stretch of a sandy shore. It’s unclear if the photo was taken at the same beach as the drone footage.
The post that accompanied the photo began with police complimenting members of the community for respecting physical distancing guidelines while at the beach.
“The overwhelming majority of people attending the beaches were consciously following the advice about maintaining appropriate distances.This was helped by the many members of the community who obviously decided to stay at home and not overwhelm the beaches,” the caption read.
In Perth, temperatures soared to 39.5 C on Saturday, which broke the previous April record set in 1910.
The Western Australia police Facebook post ended with the guidance: “If you must go to the beach, have a swim but don't stay there, go back home."
The post received hundreds of comments, some of which pointed out the mixed messaging.
“I’m confused really we are being urged to stay at home and isolate to save the spread of the virus and yet police are allowing people to be at the beach how is that fair to those of us who are doing the correct thing and staying at home,” Angela Antonelli-Palumbo said in her reply to the post.
Another user, Melissa Anzellino, echoed similar concerns in her reply, saying: “So one minute we are told we can go out for exercise but then return home and now you’re congratulating us on our beach protocols where this photo clearly shows a gazebo erected. This ain’t a quick exercise, it’s a day at the beach. Do you think you could try and be a little consistent?
CTVNews.ca reached out to the Western Australia Police Force for comment, but no reply was received before this article was published.
The current law in place country-wide stipulates that public gatherings of more than two people, excluding people from the same household, are illegal.
An individual who fails to comply with this rule, if convicted, could face a AUD$50,000 fine, or up to 12 months in jail.
Most beaches across Australia, including one of the country’s top destinations, Sydney’s Bondi Beach, have been closed for weeks.
The measures are an effort to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 116,000 people around the worldas of Monday, according to data being tracked by Johns Hopkins University.
As of Monday, the World Health Organization recorded Australia’s total number of COVID-19-related deaths at 61.