Daily Mail Australia this week published pictures of the celebrity set cruising about Sydney’s north on a rented boat with each of their children.
Locals fumed about the high profile group’s Monday morning activity given greater Sydney residents have been ordered to stay home except for ‘essential’ reasons, due to an alarming outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.
A NSW Police Force spokeswoman on Friday confirmed officers are now probing the boat excursion.
‘NSW Police have been made aware of community concerns regarding a boat ride and are conducting inquiries into the matter,’ the spokeswoman said.
Is that really an essential outing? Natalie Portman (centre) and her husband, Benjamin Millepied (left), headed out for a leisurely boat ride north of Sydney with Sacha Baron Cohen (right) during Sydney’s Covid lockdown on Monday
Pictures show the two clans appeared in good spirits they lapped up the winter sunshine in the city’s northern beaches region.
Mr Millepied got behind the steering wheel while leading lights of acclaimed films Black Swan and Borat watched on.
But the group jaunt wasn’t seen as favourably by locals, who took to social media to vent.
‘So nice that Hollywood celebs get to enjoy Sydney Harbour during lockdown,’ tweeted Australian BBC correspondent Frances Mao.
Ms Mao noted police had deployed 100 extra officers to the multicultural south-west Sydney region to ensure compliance with the public health orders.
‘What lockdown?’ added journalist Ben Grubb. ‘Recreational activities are allowed as part of the sixteen rules but two separate families on a boat?’
On dry land: The outing proved to be a hands-on experience for everyone, as Natalie, Benjamin and Sacha were later seen anchoring the boat onto a nearby beach using a rope
Catching up: The trio enjoyed a merry conversation as they strolled down the sand
The public health orders that were in place on Monday said Sydney residents could only leave their homes if they had a ‘reasonable excuse’.
That included ‘exercise and outdoor recreation’. The definition of outdoor recreation – and whether that included a day on the water – wasn’t specified.
The NSW Government had also advised locals to practise social distancing by keeping 1.5m from ‘people you don’t live with’.
In the days since the photos of Portman and Baron Cohen were taken Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Ms Berejiklian and Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant have urged Sydney residents not to mix with people from other households.
From 5pm on Friday evening, Greater Sydney residents can travel only 10km from their homes to exercise and must not gather in groups of more than two while outside.
Sydneysiders are also banned from carpooling with anyone they don’t live with when going out for exercise to prevent the spread of the virus in confined spaces.
Only one member of each household meanwhile will be allowed to leave the home per day to shop for essential items.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was also making the ‘heartbreaking’ decision to limit funeral gatherings to 10 attendees from Sunday.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned New South Wales is facing its greatest Covid threat since the pandemic reached Australian shores in early 2020
The Covid situation has only worsened throughout the week the city’s lockdown extended into a third week.
Ms Berejiklian announced even tougher Covid restrictions on Friday after the state reported 44 new Covid infections, – the worst daily increase in infections since April 2020.
At least 29 of those cases are believed to have been out in the community for either the entire time they were contagious or part of their infectious period.
There are 10 COVID-19 patients in NSW in intensive care; four of them are being ventilated.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant – who appeared shocked by the spike in cases – said one of the patients in the ICU was only in their 20s.
Police have stepped up controls to enforce lockdown compliance in south-west Sydney, where 21 of the new cases were reported.
An increasingly worried Ms Berejiklian warned the community to brace for worse case spikes in coming days and flagged the city’s now-three week lockdown was unlikely to be lifted by July 16.
‘We are facing the greatest threat that we have faced in New South Wales and the pandemic started,’ Ms Berejiklian said on Friday.
‘And it is up to all of us to turn things around.’
Portman, Millepied and Baron Cohen’s representatives were previously approached for comment.
Everything you need to know about the new greater Sydney Covid restrictions
From 5pm on Friday, July 9:
– Residents can travel only 10km from their homes
– Exercise and gather in groups of two while outside
– Only one member of each household per day is allowed to leave the home for essential shopping
– No browsing in supermarkets and retail businesses. Shop only for essential items
– Funerals capped at 10
– No car pooling with other households when going out for exercise
The new rules are in addition to the stay-at-home orders already in place until July 16, which only allow for leaving the home to:
shop for essential items (one person only)
give care and compassionate reasons (one visitor only)
exercise or for work or education that cannot be conducted remotely