Police in Victoria were yesterday given “extraordinary powers” to enforce limitations on people’s movement and to issue individuals on-the-spot fines of up to A$5,000 (US$3,569), as the state recorded 11 more COVID-19 deaths and 439 additional cases of the virus overnight.
The A$4,957 penalty, which can be issued for breaching quarantine and isolation orders, is the largest on-the-spot fine on the statute books in Victoria.
“If there were repeat breaches, if there were particularly selfish behavior, like for instance, going to work when you had the virus, then there is the alternative pathway and that is, of course, taking you to the magistrates’ court, where the maximum penalty that can be applied to you is A$20,000,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.
There are 1,750 police on the streets enforcing restrictions, which include a curfew from 8pm to 5am except for urgent medical care.
An additional 500 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel would be sent to Melbourne in the coming days, and more than 300 additional authorized officers from the Victoria Department of Health would be deployed to door-knock people with COVID-19 to ensure they were home and isolating, Andrews said.
People with COVID-19 are no longer allowed to exercise outside and would need to accept door-knocks from authorities multiple times a day at random, he said.
Until yesterday, exercise was a legitimate reason for those with the virus not to be at home.
“You will need to stay in your home or on your property,” Andrews said.
“Fresh air at the front door. Fresh air in your front yard or backyard or opening a window. That’s what you’re going to have to do. Anyone not found to be where they should be, that matter will be referred to Victoria police. Despite the scale of the challenge, despite the numbers, Victoria police will get to each and every one of those people,” he said.
Victoria Chief Police Commissioner Shane Patton said: “We will arrest you.”
Those who are not wearing masks claiming to be “sovereign citizens” would not be tolerated, he added.
“We will detain you where we have to,” Patton said. “We have significant new infringements for those who are not home when they should be self-isolating ... the expectation is the consequences are there for you and you must adhere.”
Andrews said the announcements took enforcement to “a whole new level” and that people would no longer have a “loophole” to go outside.
“So it’s about trying to make sure the big job Victoria police have to do, and ADF and other officers, as simple as we can,” he said.
“These are the steps we have to take and that’s why I’m taking them. The nurse in the intensive care ward will be wearing a mask and it’s not too much to ask that you wear a mask in order to avoid that nurse having to treat more patients than they otherwise would,” Andrews said.
“We’ve got community transmission, mystery cases, stage four, and we’ve got to get this done. That’s what’s changed. I apologize to those who are doing the right thing. This will impact on them,” he added.
Of 161 infringements issued by police on Monday night, 60 were for not wearing masks.
Patton said that police officers approached a 38-year-old woman who was not wearing a mask in Frankston and were assaulted by the woman.
“That behavior is just totally unacceptable,” Patton said.
“That’s someone who thinks they’re above the law. They’re not wearing a mask. They’re approached and asked the reason why not and then to react like that is just completely over the top. It’s this type of irresponsible behavior that we’re going to address,” he added.
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