British backpackers in Australia who break its coronavirus restrictions could face deportation after a huge Christmas Day party on a Sydney beach.
Hundreds of people are seen revelling at Bronte Beach, drinking and chanting despite social distancing rules implemented to stop an outbreak in the city’s north.
It is thought some who attended were backpackers who stayed in Australia during the pandemic or expatriates and mostly come from the UK.
The country’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, said he was “shocked” at what was seen on the beach and that authorities are investigating whether anyone on a temporary visa broke the law.
“Absolutely, under the migration act, if someone is threatening public safety or health, their visa can be cancelled and revoked,” he told Sydney’s 2GB radio station.
“Certainly, the federal government is looking at that issue... in the lead-up to New Year’s Day as well.
“There are many options available to the department: you can put them into immigration detention … however … we’re very happy to deport people, if people are flagrantly disobeying public health orders.”
Police were sent out to the party, which was broken up at about 5pm.
“At 5pm it was probably a couple of hundreds or five hundred people, mostly backpackers,” a witness told The Australian.
“They were all on the beach and then as they were moved on by the police I saw a group with a speaker playing music, and they had a bit of a dance party.”
New South Wales health minister Brad Hazzard said: “It is absolutely appalling to see what was clearly a large gathering of people who didn't give a damn about the rest of Sydney.
He said the party has “every chance that it could be…a super spreader event”.
People who break coronavirus rules face fines and prison sentences.
New South Wales is trying to get to grips with an outbreak after the number of cases around Sydney’s northern beaches grew to 129.
A lockdown for that area has been imposed and will last through the new year, with plans to give frontline workers, who worked throughout the pandemic, seats to watch Sydney’s fireworks show on New Year’s Eve also binned.
Australian daily cases have remained very low, remaining below 100 since early September.
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