SYDNEY (Reuters) – With Sydney’s beachside suburbs in lockdown due to a growing coronavirus outbreak, residents of Australia’s largest city flocked in record numbers to get tested for COVID-19, hoping to hold back tougher restrictions over Christmas.
Even at Bondi Beach, 45 km (28 miles) away from the coronavirus flare-up, drivers queued bumper-to-bumper in long lines around the famous beachfront waiting to get into a drive-through testing centre.
“People are being better safe than sorry,” said Bondi resident Jess Bloom, walking near the queue of cars.
New South Wales (NSW) state officials said 15 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in its northern beaches outbreak to 83. New cases were down from 36 the previous day.
Desperate to contain the spread, NSW has opened dozens of new testing sites, some running 24-hour a day.
State health authorities said a record of more than 38,000 tests had been conducted in the past 24 hours.
American tourist Eric Edstrom, visiting Bondi after finishing 14 days’ quarantine at a hotel, said Australians’ attitude to COVID-19 was “completely different” from home.
“The tolerance is a lot lower here, which I think is a really good thing,” Edstrom said.
“If we compare and contrast the two responses with the two countries, I think many people in the United States would much rather have an Australian-style experience.”
NSW imposed restrictions on Saturday in Sydney’s northern beaches area, home to more than 250,000 people, after a cluster of cases emerged, centred on two dining and entertainment venues in the seaside suburb of Avalon.
Australia has fared much better than most other countries, recording just under 28,200 cases and 908 deaths since the pandemic began.
(Writing by Sonali Paul; Editing by Karishma Singh)