Despite a plea from the Premier not to go to the beach, some people did today. Photo: ANDY BERRY

Surf Coast Shire council closes its beaches

March 28, 2020 BY

THE Surf Coast Shire council has made the “difficult decision” to close all of its beaches, effective immediately.

In a statement posted tonight on its Facebook page, the council said it had taken this action after evidence today there was still large gatherings of people at a number of beaches in the shire, including Torquay and Fairhaven.

“This action is in line with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ strong message that people who can stay home, must stay home.

“This decision is in accordance with the direction of the Victorian Chief Health Officer regarding the necessity of people complying with the social distancing and mass gathering rules. Similar decisions have also been made by a number of bayside and coastal councils.

“Following these rules is essential to save lives.

“People will still be able to surf, swim, run, walk or exercise their dog, provided they strictly observe the social distancing rules. The closure applies to beaches being used as a gathering place so do not sit down or gather on the beach.

“Council will also close a number of beach access roads and car parks in support of this decision.”

Local politicians reacted with dismay at large crowds flaunting a clear directive from the state government during the coronavirus pandemic and congregating at beaches, including on the Surf Coast and the Bellarine Peninsula.

Due to citizens refusing to take the Premier’s message on board to protect those at most risk, the state government has given police officers the power to issue on the spot fines for individuals (of up to $1,652) and businesses who fail to comply with the Chief Health Officer and Deputy Chief Health Officer emergency directions, public health risk directions, or those who refuse or fail to comply with a direction by the Chief Health Officer to provide information.

South Barwon MP Darren Cheeseman shared a video on Facebook showing dozens of cars parked along the road leading towards Point Addis.

“Who in their right mind would go to a beach during a pandemic?” he wrote.

“We are all in this together. Please follow the advice of the Victorian Chief Health Officer. Stay at home.”

He said anyone seen breaching the quarantine and closure requirements could be reported via the Police Assistance Line on 131444.

On Twitter, Victorian Senator Sarah Henderson wrote she was pleased to see the police helicopter over 13th Beach this morning.

“The numbers of beachgoers on the Bellarine is very concerning. It’s a magnificent day but staying home saves lives. We have to work together to get through this.”

This sign, pretending to be authorised by the Surf Coast Shire council and the Victorian Government, was installed at a Surf Coast beach today.

The regions had its own instance of fake news at Torquay beach with an unknown person or persons posting signs which stated all Surf Coast Shire beaches were “off limits” to all except for Surf Coast Shire residents. The signs included the Surf Coast Shire council and the Victorian Government’s logos.

The council clarified the signage was not installed by them, and would be removed.

Victoria’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose by 111 overnight to 685, which includes five cases in the Surf Coast Shire.

Yesterday, Mr Andrews told the media people “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.”

– WITH LYDIA KENNEDY