Hollywood actors Natalie Portman and Sacha Baron Cohen didn’t break Covid-19 lockdown rules, says the Australian police, after paparazzi photos of them taking a boat ride on the Sydney harbour surfaced on the internet.
Civilians raised concerns about the actors “potentially breaching Public Health Orders (PHO)”, the New South Wales Police earlier said, adding they were looking into the issue.
In a new statement, however, officials said there would be no police action taken against them.
“Officers attached to Northern Beaches Police Area Command received information about a group on a boat on Monday 5 July 2021, potentially breaching Public Health Orders (PHOs),” NSW police said in a statement.
“Police have reviewed the information and confirm the activity, and the number of people in the group complied with the PHOs in force at that time. There will be no further police action taken,” they said.
Photographs of Baron Cohen, Portman and her husband Benjamin Millepied cruising along the north side of the city with their children were published by The Daily Mail earlier this week.
This resulted in a backlash from the public who criticised the celebrities for enjoying themselves even as everyone else has been asked to follow lockdown rules, as Covid-19 cases in Sydney surged.
The city has been under a two-week hard Covid-19 lockdown since 26 June as authorities struggle to control a fast-spreading outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant, with over 400 cases.
“Even though we don’t want to impose burdens unless we absolutely have to, unfortunately, this is a situation where we have to,” New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian said at the time.
From Friday 9 July onwards, Greater Sydney residents have been allowed to travel only 10km from their homes to exercise and must not gather in groups of more than two while outside.
“We are facing the greatest threat that we have faced in New South Wales since the pandemic started and I don’t take it lightly,” Berejiklian said. “Unless there is a dramatic change, unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the numbers, I can’t see how we would be in a position to ease restrictions by next Friday.”
Australia’s initial handling of the pandemic was commended by many. In December 2020, life in Sydney appeared to have returned to normal after the city eliminated community transmissions of coronavirus.
The country has strictly closed its borders to foreigners since the beginning of the pandemic last year, but allowed exemptions to thousands of VIPs including sportsmen, actors and celebrities, sparking anger among the general public.
In recent month celebrities, influencers and film stars like Zac Efron, Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton and Nicole Kidman, among others, have been spotted in Australia.
While American and British cities were still under lockdown with restrictions remaining in place for restaurants, businesses, and outdoor-only policies, Australia seemed like the best option for celebrities and producers alike.
Hollywood executives have been actively courted by Australian officials to use the country as a filming location, with the chief executive of Screen Queensland boasting in mid-March that the state had secured an “unheard-of” 39 international and domestic productions in just 12 months, bringing an estimated $437m AUD (£240m) in investment to the local economy.
Australia has been selected as a filming location for several of Hollywood’s biggest upcoming blockbuster projects, including the Marvel superhero film Thor: Love and Thunder, the Tom Hanks starrer Elvis, Joe Exotic with Kate McKinnon, Blacklight starring Liam Neeson and several others.