Tourists ignore social distancing plea

American backpackers in Australia are defying social distancing rules, saying they can “handle” the coronavirus because they’re young.

Among hordes of people who took to Bondi Beach on a 31C day yesterday, recently arrived US tourists mingled among those sunbaking and having a dip in the sea.

Some talked to The Daily Telegraph, saying they have been living, beaching, dining and socialising together despite the government requesting everybody stay 1.5m away from each other.

They made a pact that if one goes down with the coronavirus, they all go down.

“We figure none of us have any symptoms, due to our age the virus is unlikely to get us, and we’re more likely to get it in New York City where there are double the amount of cases than the 300 in Australia,” Lauren Titone told the newspaper. “I’m not nervous. I’m young. I feel my body can handle it.”

The heatwave will continue today with temperatures expected to climb to 36C in Sydney.

Radio presenter Chris Smith took aim at the tourists this morning, describing their actions as “a tad dangerous”.

“It is so weird, so dumb and so ignorant, given the fact that one of those girls may have some kind of condition that she doesn’t know, and it may impact adversely with getting the coronavirus,” he said on the Today show this morning.

“And it is not hard. It is only a metre and a half. Sharing the vapour and all the spittle and the rubbish that you share when you are really close with a person, that’s all they are trying to separate you for.

“I know it is difficult to remember — I’ve forgotten so often in the last 24 hours it is not funny, but to do it deliberately is a tad dangerous.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian this morning reiterated the importance of keeping your distance from others in order to curb the spread of the virus.

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She said health authorities in NSW had lost the ability to trace where cases had come from because of how far the virus had spread.

However, she said social distancing was key to making sure we do not have an explosion in cases as nations such as Italy and Iran have seen.

“We are not on top of it and nobody is, but we are still at a stage where we’re managing it and we don’t want to lose control and that’s why it’s important to socially distance,” she said on the Today show this morning.

“Yesterday, it wasn’t the case but this morning everybody was keeping a good distance, being pleasant to each other and everybody has to do that.

“Because then you don’t need to horde and go shopping all hours of the day because you will know our freedoms will continue so long as we can control this stage of the virus and that’s the important message for everybody.”

The Prime Minister earlier this week announced a ban on non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 500, flagging more restrictions would be considered today on indoor gatherings of fewer than 100.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra yesterday, deputy chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly said the country’s health advisers were looking at a “density amount”.

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“It’s about how many people can fit in a room,” he said. “(The recommendation) was four square metres per person, so that’s a hard concept to announce.”

Prof Kelly said he could spin around in a circle to demonstrate but “I’m told I would look silly, I won’t do that”. “It depends on the size of the room and how the room is being used,” he said.

“I’ve had meetings with businesses, with hospitality and so forth, and many of my colleagues have been meeting with them. It’s about the practicality of how you set up a room, the size of the room.”

Australia now has 709 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 307 in New South Wales, 150 in Victoria, 144 in Queensland, 42 in South Australia, 52 in Western Australia, 10 in Tasmania, three in the Australian Capital Territory and one in the Northern Territory.

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