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People sunbathe on Bondi Beach ahead of its closure in Sydney on Saturday.
People sunbathe on Bondi Beach ahead of its closure in Sydney on Saturday. (Peter Parks/Afp Via Getty Images)

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Australian authorities ordered people off Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach Saturday, after thousands took to the sand in defiance of calls for social distancing and a ban on large gatherings.

While the beach remains open, only 500 people are allowed on it at a time, Police Minister David Elliott said after making the decision with “a significant level of disappointment” to remove people from the beach Saturday.”

What we saw this morning here on Bondi Beach was the most irresponsible behavior of individuals that we have seen so far,” Mr. Elliott said at a news conference, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“This is not something we’re doing because we’re the fun police, this is not something the government is doing to make life easy. This is about saving lives.”

This came as the number of coronavirus cases in Australia crossed the 1,000 mark, to stand at 1,049, rising tenfold in less than two weeks. New South Wales, the state where Sydney is located, reported the highest number of new infections on Saturday, with 83 new cases.

Meanwhile in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a new four-tier alert system for responding to the virus, declaring the country to now be on alert level two, or “reduce contact” level. This signifies that the risk of community transmission is growing.

People over the age of 70 and those with medical conditions have been asked to stay at home as much as possible, and all New Zealanders have been asked to reduce domestic travel. Pubs and restaurants remain open but patrons will have to register at the door, and the government has set a limit of 100 people in indoor spaces.

“These measures are important to protect the health of New Zealanders, which is our number one priority,” Health Minister David Clark said Saturday, according to the New Zealand Herald. “They will change the way we attend bars and restaurants and have an impact on the way people go about living their lives, but we have to apply common sense in these circumstances.”

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