Mayor's Beer and Chat Breaks Guidelines

Tony Herbert is fined after encouraging social distancing
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2020 6:45 PM CDT
Mayor Swigging a Beer Fined for Guidelines Breach
The mayor was spotted outside a hotel in Warrnambool with three other people.   (Getty/Zoya_Avenirovna)

A mayor in Australia made a video, shared by the Warrnambool City Council, urging his people to stay home during the pandemic, in accordance with social distancing guidelines. "Let's keep doing the things we have been asked to do by the government," Tony Herbert said in the video. Hours later, the BBC reports, he was spotted on the sidewalk outside a hotel in town, downing a bottle of beer. He was standing with three other people at his city car when someone driving by took a photo. Police investigated, and the mayor was fined for violating the chief health officer's order prohibiting gatherings of more than two people, per ABC. The other people were fined, too.

The mayor defended his actions earlier this week but has since apologized. It was a "chance, unplanned and emotional encounter with one business owner," he said. "It is important for any mayor, where reasonable and safe to do so, to find out first-hand about the state of their city." Another business owner joined them, he said. Invoking a historically popular excuse, the mayor said somebody then handed him a beer. With the gathering broke up, the discussion left them "with a sense of optimism for the future," Herbert said. Later, he said, "I realize that I had inadvertently breached the new laws to keep the community safe." On top of that, drinking is prohibited in that area. And the mayor's car was parked the wrong way on a one-way street. Those breaches brought warnings from police. (Read more social distancing stories.)

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