Beaches are closed in Sydney, Australia, after thousands of people went to Bondi despite pleas from authorities to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19.

There are no rules that explicitly ban Australians from going to beaches, but there are new restrictions in place which put a stop to outdoor gatherings of 500 or more people.

Unprecedented, strong action is needed right now to stop the spread of COVID-19. But these closures have really rammed home just how serious the challenge we are facing is, given how large the beach looms in Australia's national psyche.

Over the past few days, images of the crowds at Bondi have been circulating on social media, and this unwanted attention has forced the hand of authorities, who have now locked down a string of beaches in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and on the Northern Beaches, including Manly.

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To put it simply, the crowds at Bondi proved there were people who were not taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously enough. There was widespread anger about the crowds, forcing the people in charge to take decisive action.

It's entirely conceivable that if less than 500 people had been on the beach, this action wouldn't have been taken, for the time being, anyway.

And as it stands, some people are still surfing, either early before the closed beaches are patrolled, or by jumping off the rocks. But they could face fines if this continues.

Right now, the vast majority of beaches in Australia are still fair game, but if you're planning on enjoying one of them, make sure you're following the advice of health authorities -- which includes keeping your distance.

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