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Police respond to outrage over ‘cruel’ fines for drivers in Covid testing queues

NSW Police has backtracked after being called out for “unfairly” fining drivers stuck waiting in a coronavirus test queue for up to seven hours.

Nine drivers were issued a $349 fine and five demerits points on Saturday for using their phone to help pass time while waiting to be tested in Bondi, in Sydney’s east.

Thousands of people were responding to calls to get tested following positive cases spanning from the Northern Beaches cluster visiting several areas throughout the city in recent days.

Two huge queues in Bondi Beach for coronavirus testing.
Thousands lined up to be tested at a pop-up drive through Covid testing facility at Bondi Beach. Source: AAP

One driver who waited in her car for six hours before she could be tested described it a “bit cruel” for police to be targeting the queue.

“The line was right up the hill at North Bondi and I had already been in the line for two hours. I would have understood if he was politely issuing a reminder but the whole situation seemed unfair,” she told Daily Mail.

Someone else claimed a friend of theirs waited for seven hours in the queue and was “booked by police for using her phone”.

“And she was only there because she works in an office in Bondi and wanted to ‘do the right thing’,” he wrote to Twitter.

Police have since publicly addressed the matter, explaining that of the nine people to be fined, seven had been “changed to cautions”.

“The NSW Police Force has reviewed a number of traffic infringement notices that were issued to motorists in the Eastern Suburbs on Saturday 19 December 2020,” its tweet read.

Coronavirus tester in Bondi next to driver with sour facial expression.
Workers processed people while they sat in their car. Source: AAP

“Of the nine infringement notices issued, seven were changed to cautions and two were reviewed and deemed appropriate to stand.”

Common sense prevailed, Gladys Berejiklian says

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian addressed the matter in a press conference on Tuesday, saying that ultimately “common sense prevailed”.

“Common sense prevailed, and we always ask for discretion at this time,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

She added that the public’s response to state government recommendations to be tested had “just been fantastic”.

“We want everyone to keep it up, and we appreciate that for some people it’s a bigger burden than others,” she said.

“We know this Christmas and New Year will look different for all of us. None of us will have the same Christmas and New Years that we’ve had [previously].”

The premier confirmed on Tuesday there had been just eight new cases recorded in the past 24 hours from over 44,000 Covid tests.

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