Blacktown worshipers fined $ 35,000 for large rally in violation of COVID restrictions
NSW Police Minister David Elliott said he was “stunned” that 60 people gathered at a church in western Sydney overnight, amid a COVID-19 lockdown.
- Fines were imposed on 30 people and the religious organization for breaching public health orders
- Police say event is potential COVID-19 super spreader
- More than 7,000 fines were imposed this year, three times more than last year
NSW Police fined $ 35,000 for COVID-19 offenses after officers were called to the illegal gathering on Fourth Avenue, Blacktown, around 7:30 p.m., following multiple complaints filed with Crime Stoppers.
“I’m actually quite stunned,” Mr. Elliott told Nine Radio.
“When you consider that the churches are there to profess the message of hope and love and that these people are simply endangering communities because they are going to potentially spread a virus, it is just extraordinary.”
Sixty people were inside, including adults and children, police said.
Thirty participants received $ 1,000 Penalty Infringement Notices (PINS) while the organization was fined $ 5,000.
Christ Embassy Sydney is located in the Blacktown Local Government Area (LGA), which is one of 12 LGA hotspots with more stringent restrictions.
Police said there was no QR code at the entrance to the building and those present were from various LGAs, including Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool, which are also of concern.
Mr Elliott said the vast majority of churches and church-run organizations have been run well and are doing the right thing.
“If cathedrals can deliver their services online, I don’t know why suburban churches in Blacktown can’t,” he said.
The Christ Embassy Sydney Facebook page features several live church service videos that have been broadcast, including the Sunday service.
Mr Elliott said he did not accept that having different cultural backgrounds was an excuse for the violation.
“Every culture has habits and traditions of coming together,” he said.
“We all have to make sacrifices.”
Rally sends ‘wrong message’
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said there was a great sense of frustration among the police as well as the community at large who were doing the right thing.
“It is disappointing to say the least. We know that these events are very common in our communities and we rely on our leaders – whether it is a business leader or our Prime Minister or our leaders. ‘church – to do the right thing, and that just sends the wrong message, ”he said.
“These people then go home and pass it on to their extended family members, and then we get a house-to-house transmission.”
He said more than 7,000 offenses had been pronounced so far this year, three times more than last year.
Over the weekend, more than 900 people were fined for violating health orders. Many of them had participated in a demonstration in Sydney.
Blacktown and 11 other LGAs woke up with tighter restrictions, including a 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew and a one-hour daily exercise limit.
Masks are now mandatory outside of NSW unless you are exercising.
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