Schoolies urged to stay COVID-safe

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Hunter ‘schoolies’ are being urged to stay COVID-safe ahead of end of school celebrations. 

School leavers from across Newcastle, and surrounding regions, are due to arrive in Byron Bay and other parts of northern NSW from today (Friday 20 November). 

In some cases, they’ll be staying into December. 

And, while there are no formal events associated with Schoolies 2020 occurring in the Byron Bay area, police are expecting thousands of teens to descend on the coastal town to mark the end of their 13 years of schooling. 

In anticipation for the large crowds, Tweed/Byron Police District will conduct an extensive and high-visibility operation for the duration of the schoolies period, assisted by the Richmond Police District and other Northern Region commands, the Public Order and Riot Squad, Northern Operational Support Group officers, the Mounted Unit, the Police Dog Unit, Traffic and Highway Patrol, and the Youth Command and PCYC. 

Tweed/Byron Police District Commander Superintendent Dave Roptell said this year’s celebrations must be conducted in a COVID-safe environment, with officers to enforce all current Public Health Orders and conduct regular business compliance checks. 

“We know this has been an extremely tough year for HSC students, and we appreciate that school leavers want to have a memorable time,” he said. 

“However, these are not normal times, so we ask anyone coming to the Far North Coast to be respectful. 

“We have come this far in managing COVID-19 in our regional communities, let’s not undo all our hard work now. 

“With the NSW and Queensland border now re-open to regional NSW, Byron Bay is included in that zone.” 

Superintendent Roptell said the NSW Police Force continued to work closely with health officials and other government agencies, businesses and the community to manage the COVID-19 crisis and minimise the spread of the virus. 

“In saying that, we have a very clear message to those choosing to come to Byron in 2020,” he added. 

“This year is very different, there will be no large gatherings, no dance parties in the park.  

“Social distancing is the new normal, and we all have to do our bit to stop the spread. 

“The risk of community transmission is still present here in Australia and, with people from interstate expected to come to Byron, school leavers need to be extremely aware of the dangers of COVID-19. 

“Public Health Orders currently state that no more than 20 persons can be inside a home at any one time – this includes short-stay accommodation.  

“The orders also state that up to 30 people can be gathered in a public space at any one time – this includes places such as parks [and] beaches. 

“While we will be enforcing the Public Health Orders, police want to remind school leavers that we aren’t here to ruin the fun – our officers are here to protect you and keep you safe. 

“We’ll also be targeting drug and alcohol-related crime, as well as anti-social behaviour.”