Vision of a market set up on Sydney’s northern beaches – which has been hit with a terrifying COVID-19 outbreak – has sent shockwaves through NSW as the latest crisis threatens to derail countless Christmas plans.
Despite the latest coronavirus cluster, organisers of The Beaches Market at Warriewood in the city’s north decided to still go ahead with the popular event before the local council ordered stall holders to shut down and police directed shoppers to go home.
While the event’s Instagram page warned shoppers to practice social distancing, good hand hygiene, to stay home if sick and to get tested if displaying symptoms, the decision to proceed with the outdoor market horrified many on social media and sparked a fierce debate.
Some took to The Beaches Market Facebook page to vent their rage, branding the organisers “totally irresponsible” with one commenter noting, “This should be closed down for the public’s safety. Lives over money. You are letting the community down.”
Another wrote, “Really? A market in Sydney’s northern beaches in the middle of an outbreak there? What part of stay at home if you live there and don’t travel to there do you not understand?”
On Friday morning, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed experts were “definitely” bracing for more cases to emerge today as Sydney’s northern beaches cluster worsens.
Multiple states have also reimposed border restrictions on people travelling from NSW in the wake of the fresh crisis, which will be a major blow for those hoping to see their families over the holiday period.
Despite the fresh crisis, Warriewood market stall holders decided to push forward with the weekly event, which runs every Friday from 8am-1pm, with the Today show sharing shocking footage of the site captured by a Channel 9 news helicopter.
The vision revealed dozens of cars parked near the venue and scores of stalls set up as the market got underway earlier this morning – despite thousands of northern beaches residents being urged by NSW Health to remain at home for at least three days.
The clip, which was shared on Twitter by 9 News Sydney, sparked backlash among viewers who lashed shoppers for putting public health at risk.
“You can’t cure stupid,” one Twitter user wrote, while another posted: “C’mon northern beach fellows. You could do better than that”.
The decision to push ahead with the markets was also condemned by Federal Liberal MP for Mackellar Jason Falinski.
“I’ve just seen on TV Warriewood markets are open, right next to a testing site at rat park… no one should be attending markets right now. In the interest of public health, they should close,” he posted on Twitter on Friday.
However, police this morning confirmed to news.com.au that Northern Beaches Council ordered the event to shut down, while market holders and shoppers were directed to go home.
One Facebook commenter wrote on the event’s page, “Just drove past and police crawling and telling people parking to go home. Good on ‘em and I hope the organisers get a cracking fine for going against a public directive.”
But others opposed the decision and felt there were double standards at play.
“Closing down an outdoor market but leaving the indoor supermarkets and mall open is crazy!! How can this spread more outdoors, but doesn’t in a supermarket where we’re all sharing baskets and trolleys?? These markets are essential shopping. Sorry to all the stallholders that had to pack up,” one Insta user wrote.
The new cluster emerged after a male airport van driver – who shuttled international flight crews to and from Sydney Airport – was confirmed as the first coronavirus case in NSW in two weeks on Wednesday.
By that evening, a woman in her 60s and a man in his 70s from the northern beaches were confirmed infected.
As cases spread across the northern beaches, NSW Health issued a plea to residents, urging them to work from home and remain at home as much as possible, avoid visiting friends or relatives in aged care facilities or hospitals unless essential, avoid unnecessary gatherings, stick to a household group, steer clear of high-risk venues including clubs, restaurants, places of worship and gyms and skip unnecessary travel outside the area.
Public spaces including libraries, aquatic centres, gyms, art galleries and creative spaces, playgrounds, skate parks, tennis courts, golf courses, community centres and several council-run offices will also close until Monday.
The outbreak has led to huge testing queues at clinics across the area, which stretches from Palm Beach to Manly and has a combined population of more than 266,000.
There are also fears the northern beaches could resort to an Adelaide-style lockdown in a bid to nip the crisis in the bud, with mayor Michael Regan saying he’d “absolutely” be OK with the plan.
The Adelaide lockdown put its residents effectively under house arrest for a few days as the South Australian capital brought its explosion of cases under control.
Speaking to ABC News Breakfast, Mr Regan said a lockdown over summer “is not necessarily a bad thing”.
“We’re blessed with where we are. We work hard to live here and we have 20-plus beaches, I think a lockdown over summer is not necessarily a bad thing,” he said.
“It is not great. It ruins people’s plans for Christmas and travel and catching up with family.
“I’m as affected as anybody else, but it helps keep everything in check and the state in check and the nation in check as well, if it is the right thing to do, then we should do it and we will be guided by what NSW Health says, but I don’t think we should ignore that request if it comes our way.”
Mr Regan also thanked the community for its understanding as things changed repiadly.
“We are implementing strong precautionary measures now to help stop the spread any further,” he said. “We thank the community for their cooperation as we manage this evolving situation. And the market operators who agreed and very much understood the concerns.”
News.com.au contacted The Beaches Market or comment.