Coronavirus Australia: Dozens busted at illegal church gathering during lockdown in Sydney’s west
Sixty people have been busted at an illegal gathering at a church during coronavirus lockdown in western Sydney, just hours before a strict new curfew came into effect.
Police were called to the Christ Embassy Sydney church in Blacktown on Sunday night, following reports from neighbours of a gathering of adults and children inside the venue participating in a sermon.
Those involved were believed to be from Covid-19 hotspots, including Blacktown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool, the epicentre of Sydney’s latest Covid outbreak.
Police allege there were no mandatory QR codes at the church entrance.
Footage of police at the scene shows many of the church attendees appearing to not wear masks, which are mandatory statewide whenever people leave their homes.
Extra officers were called to the venue to help break up the illegal gathering and obtain details of attendees.
No arrests were made but 30 adults were issued with $1000 fines for breaching public health orders.
Thirty adults attendees at the church sermon held in Blacktown were issued $1,000 penalty infringement notices on Sunday night
The church was also issued a $5000 penalty infringement notice for failing to comply with noticed directions.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told the Today show the illegal gathering was ‘disappointing to say the least’.
‘We know these events are superspreaders in our communities, and I think that we rely on our leaders, whether it’s a business leaders, whether it’s a business leader or our Premier or our church leaders, to do the right thing, and this is just sending the wrong message in the communities,’ he told the program on Monday morning.
At the moment, we are struggling with Covid in NSW, and these type of events are one of the reasons why. I mean, these people then go back to their homes and spread it to their broader family members and then we get the house-to-house transmission.’
He added there was a great sense of frustration from police over the minority doing the wrong thing, putting officers at risk.
‘People aren’t wearing masks are a huge danger,’ Commissioner Fuller said.
We know at the moment a number of people in the community have the virus. So it’s just an extra danger or police that they have to face every day.
Police minister David Elliott also expressed his outrage over the illegal gathering.
‘I’m actually quite stunned,’ he told 2GB on Monday morning.
‘When you consider that churches are there to profess the message of hope and love, and to have those people just endanger communities because they are potentially going to spread a virus is extraordinary.’
‘If cathedrals can stream online their services, I don’t understand why suburban churches in Blacktown can’t.’
‘We all want to spend afternoons with our family and friends, but we’re making sacrifices … I’m not going to cop that it’s cultural for them, it’s cultural for everyone.’
Police were called to a church in Blacktown on Sunday night, where 60 adults were children were participating in a sermon inside
Christ Embassy Church advertised its afternoon sermon on Instagram on Sunday, encouraging people to attend ‘online or onsite.’
Christ Embassy Pastor Marvin Osaghae told The Daily Telegraph that: ‘I did not host it myself but I went there when they had the party.’
He wouldn’t confirm whether he was aware of the rules and restrictions, the publication reported.
Sunday night’s event was held just hours after the church posted an online sermon.
The church also advertised its afternoon sermon on Instagram on Sunday, which people could attend ‘online or onsite.’
The church has already been inundated with online backlash.
‘Unbelievable ! A law unto yourselves! Living in your own little entitled bubble. Shame on you for dragging your city further down in to lockdown,’ one man posted on the church’s Facebook page.
Another added: ‘Another coin operated church thinking they are above the law. No surprise there.’
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Christ Embassy Sydney for comment.
Police allege there were no mandatory QR codes at the church when they attended the gathering
Blacktown is one of the 12 Sydney local government areas where tough new restrictions came into effect from midnight Monday in a desperate attempt to curb Sydney’s Covid-19 outbreak.
New restrictions include a one hour exercise limit and evening curfew between 9pm and 5am.
Service NSW-issued permits will be required for authorised workers travelling in and out of the 12 LGAs of concern for work from August 28.
It’s also one of the worst areas in terms of Covid-19 infections as NSW recorded 830 cases on Sunday, the highest number of daily new cases in Australia since pandemic began in early 2020.
More than 1200 cases have been recorded in Blacktown in the last month, including almost 700 without a known source of infection.
Local MP and former mayor Stephen Bali is furious his area was one of the hotspots singled out under the new restrictions.
He believes the whole city should be under the same restrictions – be they as hard as in his electorate, or softer.
Police allege there were no mandatory QR codes when they were called to Christ Embassy Sydney (pictured) in the Covid-19 hotspot of Blacktown on Sunday night
‘There should have been a short, sharp lockdown when the case numbers reached 50 in about June – people would have been fine with that, but it’s been going on for months,’ Mr Bali told Daily Mail Australia on Sunday.
‘It’s not a good look to have people enjoying themselves at the beach in the east and completely locked down in the west – the Sydney basin is the Sydney basin and people should be treated equally.’
Mr Bali acknowledged that some people flout restrictions, but he added that a lot of teenagers who work nights at places like fast-food restaurants rely on their parents to pick them up after 9pm.
‘Truck drivers also have to leave the area at all times, but they often don’t know where they have to go until the day they have to leave – to get a work permit you have to apply with substantial information,’ he said.
‘I know we need to be stronger and harder with the lockdown, but health bureaucrats give out info that doesn’t match reality – it’s spreading because people have to work.’
Police continue to appeal to the public to report suspected breaches of any public health order or behaviour which may impact on the health and safety of the community by contacting Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Tougher restrictions came into effect in 12 Covid hotspots midnight Monday, including Blacktown (pictured a local worker at a food outlet)
What are the new coronavirus restrictions?
– Wearing masks outside will be mandatory for everyone in NSW, unless they are exercising.
– Those who are exercising will still need to carry a mask with them at all times.
– People will need to put on a mask while exercising if they are in a busy area or cannot socially distance.
IN SYDNEY’S 12 LGA AREAS OF CONCERN:
– Curfews will be introduced from 9pm to 5am, except for authorised workers, emergencies or medical care, to help reduce the movement of young people
– Sydneysiders travelling into or out of the 12 LGAs of concern for work will also need to carry a permit
– Outdoor exercise is limited to one hour per day
– Click and collect only at garden centres and plant nurseries, office supplies, hardware and building , landscaping material , rural supplies, and pet supplies. Tradies are allowed to shop in-store where relevant
– All exams and other education or professional development related activities will move online, not including the HSC.
– These LGAs are Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Strathfield, and some suburbs of Penrith.
POLICE GIVEN SPECIAL POWERS:
– Power for the Commissioner of Police to lock down apartment blocks while NSW Health assesses the COVID risk
– Power for the Commissioner of Police to declare a residential premise a COVID-risk and order all people to present to police during compliance checks
– Powers to allow police to order anyone issued with an infringement notice to return home
– If a person from outside an LGA of concern is found in an LGA of concern without reasonable excuse, they will be fined $1000 and required to isolate at home for 14 days.
ADDITIONAL RESTRICTIONS FOR AREAS OF CONCERN
– Childcare workers and disability support workers who live or work in the LGAs of concern must have their first vaccination dose by August 30.
– Authorised workers who work outside their LGA of concern are only permitted to work if rapid antigen testing is implemented at their work-site or they have had their first vaccination dose by August 30.
– From August 28, authorised workers from LGAs of concern are required to carry a permit from Service NSW declaring they are authorised workers and can’t work from home.