Popular Melbourne Beaches Closed After People Flout Social Distancing Rules
A number of Victoria's beaches have been closed and beachgoers told to move along after people defied social distancing rules put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Port Phillip Council has confirmed all of its beaches, as well as the St Kilda Botanical Gardens, were closed from 6pm on Friday night "until further notice".
The council said people would still be able to access beaches as a thoroughfare, with the closure put in place to ensure people don't use the areas as a gathering place.
"Swimming is allowed at this stage, as long as social distancing and mass gathering rules are obeyed," the council said.
Boat launches at St Kilda Marina would also remain unaffected.
The decision comes after vision from Melbourne's popular St Kilda beach on Friday afternoon showed many beachgoers defying social distancing restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mayor Bernadene Voss said the decision was difficult but that many people were flouting social distancing measures on Friday.
"This has not been an easy decision as we know how important getting a break outside is, especially for those at home during the pandemic," Voss said.
"This is why we are keeping our other parks open, but we will consider closing them if people continue to disobey social distancing rules and gather in large numbers," she continued.
"Lives are at stake here and everyone needs to play their part in keeping themselves - and others, safe during this crisis."
"We feel for those who have been doing the right thing, but protecting our community is paramount."
Earlier on Friday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews addressed people hoping to go to the beach over the weekend and urged them to rethink their plans, saying it could cost someone's life.
"If you can stay home, you must stay home," Andrews told reporters on Friday.
"You don't need to be at the beach."
"If you choose to be at the beach then that is a choice that may cost someone their life.
"I've closed the pubs because no one has to go to the pubs. If I have to close the beaches, I will. Be in no doubt about that."
It comes just a week after thousands who flocked to Sydney's iconic Bondi Beach made global headlines and drew widespread condemnation -- forcing the NSW Government to step in and shut the beach down.
A number of local councils in Sydney also announced the closure of their beaches last weekend in order to prevent people from going and potentially breaking the 500 person limit for outdoor gatherings amid the virus outbreak.
Announcing the temporary closure of Bondi Beach last week, the state Police Minister David Elliott said the measure was not about being the "fun police" but to save lives.
"We need the public to be aware they could be carrying the virus without even knowing," Elliott said.
He warned other beaches across the state would also be closed if they exceed the 500 person crowd limit.