The New South Wales Health Minister has said he’s not concerned about crowds flocking to parks and beaches after rejecting a Sydney church’s exemption request for an outdoor worship service.
A senior NSW Health Medical Officer acting as a delegate of the Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, told the western Sydney congregation that their request was denied because such outdoor gatherings posed a risk to spreading COVID-19 among the community.
The church, who were unable to enjoy a warm day on the beach, had their request rejected by NSW Health on Monday, despite outlining their COVID safety policy in detail, which included enforcing masks, hand sanitizers, QR code check-ins, and social distancing measures.
“A person must not participate in an outdoor gathering of more than 2 people,” the response from NSW Health stated.
“Places of worship must be closed to members of the public, except for purposes of a funeral or memorial service or providing education or childcare.”
On Saturday, however, “throngs of beachgoers flocked to Sydney’s eastern suburbs beaches despite the city being in lockdown,” news outlets reported.
But, that’s fine according to the Health Minister who, when asked if he was concerned about large crowds gathering in parks and beaches, said “no” because it’s the “safest place to be.”
“I’m concerned about people that are not vaccinated,” he said. “I think that the fresh air is actually–we know it is the safest place to be at the present time. Dr. Chant and Dr. McAnulty have talked about that many times.”
A member of the congregation told Caldron Pool said it’s hard not to feel discriminated against.
“We were disappointed that after applying for an exemption in good faith, we were rejected. Only to hear a much less regulated mass gathering at the beach does not concern the Health Minister.
“It is hard to believe that we are not being unfairly discriminated against. Lots of people in our community are dying to return to church, just for their own mental health,” he said.
“This is another clear message from the Health Minister that religious freedoms don’t matter.”