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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Canberra Easter crowds elicit stern warning

While Canberrans recently have done a lot toward curbing the rate of spread of COVID-19, many people inadvertently flouted the public gathering and social distancing restrictions over the Easter long weekend.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that ACT Policing overall reported a very positive response from the Canberra community, with only a couple of exceptions.

Police were “mobile and active” on all major roads leading into NSW and were stopping drivers to speak with them about the purpose of their travel.

“I’m advised nearly everyone was compliant,” Mr Barr said. “ACT Policing were required to turn a few cars around, including someone who thought that towing a caravan for a holiday into NSW would be a good idea at this time.

“Even though it’s been disappointing that a very small number of people have not been heeding the warnings, we do want to say thank you to all of those Canberrans who have done the right thing,” he said.

Across the four days, police spoke with close to 400 drivers about the purpose of their travel, and 46 drivers chose to turn around on highways when they understood their travel wasn’t essential.

In total, police issued over 100 traffic infringements for offences including speeding, unregistered vehicles, and use of a mobile phone, while one driver was summonsed for driving while disqualified.

Locally, Mr Barr mentioned police reported significant crowding at two Canberra landmarks: Lake Burley Griffin’s bridge-to-bridge walk, and a well-known flat pack furniture shop near Canberra Airport.

“Police were patrolling Lake Burley Griffin yesterday (12 April) and did see a lot of people out exercising, and that’s a great thing … we do just need to remember to avoid crowds when we exercise.

“There’s nothing wrong with doing that 5km circuit, but when you are doing it you defeat the whole purpose of physical distancing if you’re all crammed together,” he said.

Mr Barr ruled out ACT Policing on the bridges while speaking to ABC Radio Canberra’s Breakfast this morning, 14 April.

“I’d despair a little about how we’re going to go with this for the next few years if we can’t manage a little distance between one another going over a bridge,” he said.

In respect to retail shopping, Mr Barr said while there are things people do need to do over the long weekend, it’s important to still be mindful of crowding.

“Just think about how you do that … All the fantastic work that people have been doing day in day out for weeks can all be undone by one large crowd gathering.”

Police responded to several incidents over the long weekend for possible breaches of COVID-19 health directions.

These included gatherings at residences and public parks, businesses thought to still be operating, and a group of three men working on a car in front of a house in Forde.

In all instances, the groups were cooperative with police, and dispersed without incident where required, with no fines issued.

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