Australia

Victorian health minister slams 'stupid' beachgoers for not taking coronavirus seriously

Police officers at Brighton Beach in Melbourne. Source: AAP

Some Victorians are defying authorities and gathering at the state's beaches.

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos has blasted the "stupid behaviour" of some in her state who defied the premier and gathered at the beach this weekend.

"It is stupid behaviour ... We all need to do our bit so it's just that small minority of people who are putting the rest of the community at risk. We all need to make some sacrifices here," she said on Sunday.

"It's not a big sacrifice to skip going to the beach today. People need to do some physical exercise; go for a walk, but try to make that as quick as possible and go home.

"I share the frustration of my Chief Health Officer," she said.

A "beach closed" sign is seen at St Kilda Beach in Melbourne.
A "beach closed" sign is seen at St Kilda Beach in Melbourne.
AAP

Earlier, the state's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton slammed the "crap" behaviour on Twitter. 

"Some of the behaviour today - when we're asking people to stay home - has been really crap," he wrote in a tweet.

"It's hard to change habits and it's hard to see dangers that aren't apparent yet. But with 3,000 cases of COVID-19 in Australia this week, we're headed to 100,000 in 2-3 weeks without change.

"That means thousands of deaths. Overwhelmed health services. Medical staff at unacceptable risk. Unstoppable spread. Do the right thing now and #StayAtHome. Today. Tomorrow. Until we're through this, please."

Port Phillip City Council closed all of its beaches including the popular St Kilda Beach from Friday.

But there was confusion after the council said walking or swimming was acceptable "as long as social distancing and mass gathering rules are obeyed".

Images of people gathering at Melbourne beaches have been widely shared on social media.

Surf Coast Shire was among about half a dozen other councils to shut down its beaches after people flocked to Ocean Grove, Torquay and Point Addis. 

Premier Daniel Andrews has implored people to stay at home if possible.

On Saturday, he introduced on-the-spot fines for people who breach social distancing rules.

People at St Kilda Beach in Melbourne on Saturday.
People at St Kilda Beach in Melbourne on Saturday.
AAP

Individuals face fines of up to $1,652 for gathering in large groups and businesses could cop penalties of $9,913.

The fines also apply to travellers found to be out-and-about within 14 days of returning from overseas.

Victoria Police said the "vast majority" of people heeded warnings to remain at home, releasing drone footage of quiet inner-city beaches.

The number of Australians who have died after contracting COVID-19 reached at least 16 on Sunday, following the death of two more people overnight.

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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