The City of Newcastle is working with Hunter Surf Life Saving to monitor crowd numbers at beaches and the ocean baths to ensure the government's coronavirus directive to limit non-essential outdoor gatherings to less than 500 people is being adhered to.
While many public spaces across the city remain open, the council is advising residents and visitors to practice social distancing - maintaining a 1.5 metre space from others - to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
"Although Newcastle beaches don't typically experience the dense crowds of Bondi Beach, which was closed [Saturday] by NSW Police, we will be actively monitoring numbers at our beaches and baths to help enforce the limit on non-essential outdoor gatherings to fewer than 500 people," Alissa Jones, the council's interim director of city wide services, said.
"We all have a role to play in preventing the spread of a COVID-19 and City of Newcastle will be implementing social distancing conditions at our beaches and baths in partnership with Hunter Surf Life Saving."
City of Newcastle usually provides lifeguards at beaches and ocean baths from Monday to Saturday, along with Hunter Surf Life Saving volunteers who patrol beaches on Saturday and Sunday.
Council staff will now join surf lifesaver patrols on Sundays to help monitor the number of people gathered at beaches, remind beach-goers to stay a safe distance from each other and install signs at all beaches and baths with coronavirus health messages.
The council said it is also working to help "ease pressures" on businesses and services that are under strain due to the rapidly developing COVID-19 pandemic by enabling more truck deliveries to supermarkets and longer hours for doctors' surgeries to operate.
Lord Mayor of Newcastle Nuatali Nelmes said the measures complement the Community and Economic Resilience package currently under development by City of Newcastle staff.
"Supermarkets struggling to meet unprecedented demand can increase the number of daily deliveries, and their delivery trucks can arrive later or earlier than usual to help ensure shelves remain stocked. We only ask that businesses let their neighbours know about the changes and likewise ask for understanding from nearby residents," she said.
"Medical practices will be able to stay open longer or set up flexible testing arrangements which will ease the demand on hospitals."
Fort Scratchley has been closed until further notice. The closure is consistent with advice encouraging all volunteer-run museums and galleries to close and for all volunteer support programs to be suspended temporarily.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Lake Macquarie City Council has closed its four patrolled beaches - Redhead, Caves, Blacksmiths and Catherine Hill Bay - in response to the NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services' announcement at the weekend to control crowds exceeding 500 people at NSW beaches.
Taking beach visitor numbers from Saturday into account, Redhead and Caves both reached the 500 people restriction, the council's manager of leisure services, Brad Sutton, said that the temporary closure would allow the council to plan how it can comply with the new restrictions and not put the community or lifeguards at risk.
"We know how much our community loves the water and we want to do all that we can to keep everyone safe. However the water safety message of 'swim between the flags' is essentially encouraging people to congregate in close proximity, therefore contravening the NSW Government's restrictions," Mr Sutton said.
The long stretches of sandy coastline between Redhead and Catherine Hill Bay still allow for social distancing. The community is encouraged to enjoy the sunshine with a stroll along the beach or a walk in the shallows with their four-legged friend on Nine Mile Beach between Second and Third creeks or Hams Beach.
The council is also working with our supermarket operators to remove delivery curfews on loading bays to help them meet current demand in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"We are trying to proactively respond to the current surge in demand, which is expected to last at least for several weeks," Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser said.
"This will assist with restocking shelves more quickly and increase the public's confidence. This is an unprecedented health event and we need to work together as a community during these challenging times. Core council services such as waste collections, roadworks and maintenance, have not been impacted."
All of the council's owned and/or operated community facilities remain open except for Hunter Sports Centre.