Zoo staff left aghast after busloads of tourists arrive, breaching virus rules

The tourists continued on to Dubbo, despite Sydney's virus rules being further tightened on Saturday.

The tourists continued on to Dubbo, despite Sydney's virus rules being further tightened on Saturday. Photo: Getty

A travel company has been fined thousands of dollars after busloads of tourists turned up at a zoo in regional NSW, in breach of coronavirus stay-at-home orders.

The three buses carrying nearly 130 guests and guides sparked alarm among staff when they arrived at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo on Monday.

Zoo staff refused to let the arrivals off the bus. Instead, they called NSW Police, who found that at least 76 people on board were not supposed to leave greater Sydney, which is under a COVID lockdown.

They found the group had left Sydney last Friday – when stay-at-home orders already applied to several local government areas across the city. They continued with their journey through regional NSW even after the Sydney lockdown was announced on Saturday.

NSW Police sent the travellers home immediately, and fined the tour company $5000.

State Emergency Operations Controller, Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys, said the company owner told police he was aware of the public health orders but decided to continue the tour as planned anyway.

“The staff at the zoo did exactly the right thing – they isolated the risk and alerted police. They did a great job to protect the local community,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.

Investigations into further possible breaches are continuing.

NSW Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said it was a crucial time for the state, and it was disappointing to see people continuing to breach the health orders.

“I would appeal to everyone to not only follow the rules but use your common sense and do your bit to help NSW beat this virus,” he said.

NSW Police have also issued a host of other fines for breaching health orders, with the state under strict virus restrictions and Sydney residents in lockdown until at least July 9.

They include a man and woman charged with offences including assault after allegedly refusing to check in with a QR code at a restaurant at Forster.

There were also 16 $200 infringements issued on Monday for people who had refused to wear fitted face masks. One of those was Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who failed to wear a mask when he went to pay for petrol in Armidale.

“That’s life,” Mr Joyce said, after admitting he had been inside the shop for “30 seconds” without a mask.

On Monday, NSW Police said they had fined two “naked sunbathers” for breaking COVID rules.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the pair were rescued by SES crews after getting lost in the bush of Royal National Park.

“Unbelievably, we saw two men sunbaking naked on a beach on the South Coast,” Mr Fuller said.

“They were startled by a deer, ran into the national forest, national park, and got lost.

“Not only did they require assistance from SES and police to rescue them, they also both received a ticket for $1000.”

The men made emergency calls for help about 6pm Sunday after they got lost. The SES, NSW Ambulance, police helicopter and Police Rescue were all sent to help find them.

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