SYDNEY (Reuters) – Poor weather and the COVID-19 pandemic kept beachgoers away on Friday from Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach, a traditional Christmas destination for thousands of people each year.
With Australia’s external borders closed and domestic tourism limited, Sydneysiders were set to have the rare chance to have the internationally famous attraction nearly all to themselves.
But rainy weather and a recent outbreak of the new coronavirus in the northern beach suburbs of Australia’s largest city – which has put more than quarter of a million people in lockdown for nearly a week – kept the numbers down.
At midday, only about 100 people were swimming, surfing and posing for photos in front of a Christmas tree set up by lifesavers.
“We have got to be present with the moment,” said local resident Celio Agostinho. “Bring a bit of happiness to the situation, bring a bit of light, bring a bit of hope, bit of craziness and that’s it. That’s what Bondi is, that’s what Christmas is all about.”
With swift and strict measures, Australia has done far better than most other developed nations in fighting COVID-19, with just under 28,300 cases and 908 deaths. On Friday, there were an estimated 156 active cases across the country.
“We give thanks this year for our Christmas,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a televised holiday message. “Our blessings outweigh our struggles.”
(Reporting by Jill Gralow in Sydney; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)