Sunday, May 26, 2024

New $5,000 fine for COVID rule breakers

Hundreds of extra Police and Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel have been deployed to ensure Victorians are abiding by the directions of the state’s Chief Health Officer (CHO), as new penalties for those who repeatedly breach the directions are rolled out.

From today, a new infringement offence for a breach of the CHO directions will be introduced to target people who fail to self-isolate after testing positive to coronavirus or being identified as a close contact.  

A fine of $4,957 can be issued to a person who is found in breach of the requirement to self-isolate for a second or subsequent time – the highest on-the-spot infringement notice Victoria Police can issue to a person. 

“If we all do the right thing, we will get through this. Those doing the wrong thing will cop a fine from Victoria Police, because the only way to beat this deadly virus is if we all follow the rules,” said Premier, Daniel Andrews.

“We have a massive team going door to door to support all Victorians – including more powers and resources to Victoria Police to catch anyone who thinks they can get away with doing the wrong thing.” 

The Premier said, in addition to Stage 4 restrictions announced this week, people who had tested positive or were close contacts would no longer be able to leave their homes for exercise.

“A limited number of reasons to leave the home will remain – including seeking medical care, in an emergency, or if required by law – but if your door is knocked and you’re not able to prove you were out for the right reasons, you will face the consequences,” he said.

To ensure all Victorians are following the CHO directions, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Lisa Neville said an additional 250 sworn officers would join Operation Sentinel – building on the 500-strong existing team of Victoria Police officers.

“Victoria Police don’t want be issuing these fines but make no mistake – they will if they need to. It’s more important than ever that Victorians do the right thing and follow the directives of the Chief Health Officer,” she said.

The police Operation will be assisted by the expansion of Operation Vestige, which sees ADF personnel and DHHS authorised officers making in-person visits to the homes of people who have tested positive or are close contacts to ensure they are self-isolating.

More than 500 ADF personnel and 300 authorised officers will join the teams already on the ground and see the operation scale up to 4,000 household visits every day from next week, Ms Neville said.

She said any persons not at home or confirmed as non-compliant through door knocking would be prioritised for compliance checks by Victoria Police as part of Operation Sentinel spot check activity.

“Where non-compliance is confirmed, infringements will be issued.”

With new restrictions on business and industry coming into force from Wednesday night, employees working in permitted industries who cannot work from home will be required to carry a new ‘Worker Permit’ when travelling to and from work.

From 11:59pm Wednesday 5 August, employers will be required to issue signed permits to their employees to allow them to attend a workplace – to prevent people trying to get around the tough new restrictions. 

Enforcement will also be bolstered by the addition of Protective Services Officers normally stationed on the Night Network supporting compliance efforts following the introduction of a curfew and the reduction in trains running at night.

Ms Neville said that in addition to the stronger enforcement capability, Victoria Police would continue to police the border of metropolitan Melbourne to ensure travel into regional Victoria only occurs for permitted reasons.  

“Booze buses have already been deployed to road stops and checkpoints to monitor traffic flow, and police will continue to use Automatic Number Plate Recognition to scan registration details and identify the residential addresses of license holders.”

Victoria Police are also conducting checks across the state, including the main arterials to regional Victoria.

“Victoria Police has undertaken over 6000 spot checks in the past 24 hours at homes, businesses and non-essential services across the state and issued 161 fines as part of Operation Sentinel – including 60 for failing to wear a mask,” Minister Neville said.

She said police were conducting checks at businesses, homes, community locations and non-essential services across the state to ensure directions were being followed.

The community can continue to report non-urgent crime and events, as well as breaches of the Chief Health Officer’s directives, by calling the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or submitting an online report at police.vic.gov.au/palolr.

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