Australian police are investigating actors Natalie Portman and Sacha Baron Cohen for a possible breach of Sydney’s lockdown.
Photos have emerged of the Hollywood stars taking a ship ride on Sydney Harbour on Monday.
New South Wales Police confirmed to the news channel that they’re conducting inquiries after members of the general public raised concerns.
On Friday, harsher Covid restrictions were announced for the town.
According to Sydney’s stay-at-home order, people should only leave their homes for essential reasons.
Australia’s largest city has been in lockdown since 26 June to combat a 400-case outbreak of the Delta variant.
But the case rate has continued to climb, officials say, partly due to people breaking the principles.
Paparazzi shots published by The Daily Mail showed Baron Cohen, Portman, and her husband, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, on a ship ride on Sydney Harbour.
Before Friday, people were allowed to collect outside in groups of 10 but just for “essential” exercise.
NSW Police declined to specify which rule breach was being investigated about the Hollywood stars, noting they were still establishing who was present at the scene.
They confirmed that efforts were being made to contact the actors.
Portman and Millepied are in Sydney since January for filming commitments. Baron-Cohen and his Australian wife Isla Fisher also entered the country last year.
Since March 2020, Australia has shut its borders to most foreigners during a controversial policy that has also prevented citizens and relations from entering the country.
However, it’s granted entry permits to thousands – including dozens of celebrities, sports players, and business people. Those exemptions have sparked public outrage.
On Friday, police increased their lockdown patrols, sending 100 extra officers to affected virus suburbs in Sydney’s southwest.
However, locals criticized the stronger police presence within the poorer and more ethnically diverse suburbs – arguing that police weren’t deployed to Bondi, and therefore the more affluent areas of Sydney when the virus emerged there in mid-June.
Authorities have strongly denied accusations of discrimination.
New South Wales reported 44 new cases of the Delta variant on Friday, beat its capital Sydney.
Despite the fortnight of lockdown, the case rate has continued to rise with transmission across households.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned that locals were facing “the biggest challenge” since the pandemic started.
With quite 90% of the population unvaccinated, authorities are forced to undertake and contain the Delta spread by putting the town into lockdown.
Ms. Berejiklian flagged that the continued rise in cases suggested the city’s lockdown would need to be extended past the 17 July deadline set earlier in the week.
She said there needed to be a “drastic turnaround” just in case numbers.
“Until we get to zero or on the brink of zero, we cannot ease restrictions,” she said.
Ms. Berejiklian also rejected the thought that authorities might hand over trying to eliminate the virus. The population’s vaccine rates were too low, she said.
“If we chose to measure with this while the rates of vaccinations are at 9%, we’ll see thousands and thousands of hospitalizations and deaths,” she said.
Sydney’s lockdown and Delta outbreak scares in various other cities last week have sparked criticism of federal authorities. Many blame Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government for a slow vaccine rollout.
Australia’s program began in February when the state had only a few cases. But the rollout was delayed by supply problems, public complacency, and hesitancy over the side effects of the AstraZeneca jab.