Cops backflip on ‘cruel’ virus fines
NSW Police have been blasted over the "cruel" decision to fine people who lined up for hours at Sydney's Bondi Beach COVID-19 testing clinic.
The government has called on people with even the mildest symptoms to go and get tested for coronavirus as the northern beaches cluster continues to grow.
Thousands of people have responded to the call, with testing clinics across Sydney packed with people wanting to do their part to help contain the outbreak.
With so many people rushing to get tested the wait times at the clinics increased dramatically, with some people having to wait up to seven hours.
Residents in the city's eastern suburbs had to wait for hours in their cars before undergoing the uncomfortable nose swab test, and then were thanked for their efforts with a $349 fine and five demerit points.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian addressed the fines during her press conference on Tuesday, saying she understands nine people were handed infringements.
"Seven of those fines have been revoked but I understand for two of those fines, there were additional issues," she said.
"Common sense prevailed and we always ask for discretion at this time."
Multiple people who attended the Bondi Beach testing clinic on Saturday told the Daily Mailpolice were patrolling the queue and fining people who were caught using their mobile phone during the wait.
One woman said she saw officers taking photos of people's licence plates and issuing fines to people in line around her.
During the wait, she was using her Kindle device to read during the wait and was reportedly told by an officer she was "lucky" it wasn't a mobile phone.
She told the publication that she believes the officer came over to her because her keys were in the ignition.
The rules on the Transport for NSW website state that to use a mobile phone, "you must be parked out of the line of traffic. However, the ignition does not need to be turned off."
"The line was right up the hill at North Bondi and I had already been in the line for two hours," she said.
"I would have understood if he was politely issuing a reminder but the whole situation seemed unfair."
She said the wait was about six hours and she felt it was "a bit cruel" to target people who were trying to do the right thing and get tested.
A NSW Police spokesperson told news.com.au that a number of traffic infringements were issued to motorists in Sydney's eastern suburbs on December 19.
"These infringements are being reviewed by NSW Police," the spokesperson said.
Twitter user Paul Cheever said his friend had waited for seven hours at the same clinic and was hit with a fine for using her phone to pass the time.
A friend of ours was waiting for testing in a 7 hour queue in Bondi this morning when she was booked by police for using her phone. And she was only there because she works in an office in Bondi and wanted to “do the right thing”.— Paul Cheever (@pmcheever) December 19, 2020
Another woman told the Daily Mail said she was waiting in the testing line on Saturday morning when she was approached by a police officer.
She had her car off and was playing with her phone while her dog sat on her lap, promoting the officer to reportedly threaten to give her two tickets.
"I felt like going 'get stuffed, I'm trying to do the right thing here'," she told the publication.
It is illegal to hold and use a mobile phone at any time while driving and, in NSW, comes with a $349 fine and five demerit points. This increases to 10 demerit points during double demerit periods.
NSW recorded 15 COVID-19 infections on Monday, with more than 38,000 people coming forward to get tested over the 24 hour period.
The northern beaches cluster has risen to 83 cases, with the area still under stay at home orders.
Restrictions around gatherings and venue limits have been reinstated across Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said key decisions around what restrictions will be in place over Christmas will be announced on Wednesday morning.
"This is an ongoing and evolving situation and we know how contagious the virus is," she said on Monday.
"I appreciate how frustrating it is, and I would love to be able to tell everybody today what Christmas might look like in New South Wales or the Northern Beaches. But we're not in a position to do that yet.
"And I appreciate the community has been extremely patient, but I also appreciate, I think that the community understands our position."
Originally published as Cops backflip on 'cruel' virus fines