Police minister says disobeying rules to prevent spread of coronavirus ‘not only reckless and stupid, but potentially deadly’
A woman from the New South Wales Hunter region has been fined by police for twice defying orders to self-isolate after returning from overseas, as authorities across the country begin to police new rules and regulations to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Australia has a nationwide mandatory 14-day self-quarantine in place for people arriving from overseas. There are also bans on mass gatherings, and closures of businesses deemed “non-essential”.
States and territories also have regulations and are responsible for enforcing the new public health rules.
NSW police say they have issued fines to the operators of a Sussex Street, Sydney, massage parlour which remained open despite orders to close, and a woman who returned from a holiday in Bali on Saturday.
On Monday the woman, from the Lake Macquarie suburb of Redhead, was issued with a warning by police for breaching self-isolation rules. On Thursday, acting on information she had left her home again that morning, police issued a $1,000 on-the-spot fine.
”The fact that people are still not complying is the reason why we have police out in full force enforcing these directions,” the NSW police minister, David Elliott, said.
“This behaviour is not only reckless and stupid, but potentially deadly.”
In Queensland, police have conducted about 1,000 compliance checks of people under self-isolation orders. The commissioner, Katarina Carroll, said the strategy had been “communication and compassion … because we know the community is going through a tough time”.
“If our rules aren’t adhered to there will be compliance,” Carroll said.
“In recent weeks [police have been] compliance checking around social distancing in our cafes and restaurants and also in our open spaces. We have put a lot of these plans together in a very, very short timeframe.”
Most states and territories were not immediately able to provide any data around their compliance efforts. But those that responded to questions by Guardian Australia indicated they were proactively looking to enforce rules designed to limit the spread of the virus.
Victoria police said as of Friday they were also monitoring people who had tested positive for Covid-19.
“A person who receives a positive Covid-19 diagnosis from midnight 25 March must travel directly home or to a hospital, or remain home if they are already there,” a Victoria police spokesman said.
“They may only leave the premises for medical care, medical supplies, emergencies or for a limited time outdoors only if it is possible to avoid contact with others and not enter any other building.
“Additionally, the person must not permit anyone into their premises, except those who already live there or for medical or emergency purposes.
“This is in addition to the work police have already been undertaking performing spot checks on returning travellers who should be in self-isolation and enforcing bans on indoor and outdoor gatherings at non-essential venues.
“On top of performing proactive and reactive spot checks, police will proactively patrol places of mass gathering such as beaches and shopping centres to ensure restrictions are being complied with.”
A West Australian police spokeswoman encouraged people to report others failing to self-isolate.
“Police have been conducting proactive patrols, visiting businesses and venues to ensure they are complying with social distancing requirements,” the spokeswoman said.
“Police will continue to take appropriate action where required.”
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