Drivers waiting at COVID-19 testing clinic cop $349 fines and five demerit points for using phones

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has weighed in after police targeted drivers waiting for hours at a Sydney testing clinic and handed out $349 fines.

NSW Police have been blasted over the “cruel” decision to fine people who lined up for hours at Sydney’s Bondi Beach COVID-19 testing clinic.

The government has called on people with even the mildest symptoms to go and get tested for coronavirus as the northern beaches cluster continues to grow.

Thousands of people have responded to the call, with testing clinics across Sydney packed with people wanting to do their part to help contain the outbreak.

With so many people rushing to get tested the wait times at the clinics increased dramatically, with some people having to wait up to seven hours.

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Cars wait in line at a Bondi Beach COVID-19 drive-through testing clinic. Picture: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

Cars wait in line at a Bondi Beach COVID-19 drive-through testing clinic. Picture: Jenny Evans/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

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Residents in the city’s eastern suburbs had to wait for hours in their cars before undergoing the uncomfortable nose swab test, and then were thanked for their efforts with a $349 fine and five demerit points.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian addressed the fines during her press conference on Tuesday, saying she understands nine people were handed infringements.

“Seven of those fines have been revoked but I understand for two of those fines, there were additional issues,” she said.

“Common sense prevailed and we always ask for discretion at this time.”

Multiple people who attended the Bondi Beach testing clinic on Saturday told the Daily Mailpolice were patrolling the queue and fining people who were caught using their mobile phone during the wait.

One woman said she saw officers taking photos of people’s licence plates and issuing fines to people in line around her.

During the wait, she was using her Kindle device to read during the wait and was reportedly told by an officer she was “lucky” it wasn’t a mobile phone.

She told the publication that she believes the officer came over to her because her keys were in the ignition.

The rules on the Transport for NSW website state that to use a mobile phone, “you must be parked out of the line of traffic. However, the ignition does not need to be turned off.”

“The line was right up the hill at North Bondi and I had already been in the line for two hours,” she said.

“I would have understood if he was politely issuing a reminder but the whole situation seemed unfair.”

She said the wait was about six hours and she felt it was “a bit cruel” to target people who were trying to do the right thing and get tested.

A NSW Police spokesperson told news.com.au that a number of traffic infringements were issued to motorists in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on December 19.

“These infringements are being reviewed by NSW Police,” the spokesperson said.

Twitter user Paul Cheever said his friend had waited for seven hours at the same clinic and was hit with a fine for using her phone to pass the time.

Another woman told the Daily Mail said she was waiting in the testing line on Saturday morning when she was approached by a police officer.

She had her car off and was playing with her phone while her dog sat on her lap, promoting the officer to reportedly threaten to give her two tickets.

“I felt like going ‘get stuffed, I’m trying to do the right thing here’,” she told the publication.

It is illegal to hold and use a mobile phone at any time while driving and, in NSW, comes with a $349 fine and five demerit points. This increases to 10 demerit points during double demerit periods.



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