Tough new penalties for COVID breaches

The message is clear but it is not getting through to all.

As Victoria announced 439 new COVID cases and 11 deaths this morning, Premier Daniel Andrews says the state has no option but to get tougher on people who bend or ignore the law.

Just days into a new six-week stage four lockdown in Melbourne, Mr Andrews revealed that Australian Defence Force (ADF) and state health officials had doorknocked 3000 people who were meant to be isolating and found in excess of 800 people were not at home. That’s more than one in four who were in violation of the laws – and too many not to impose new penalties, the state government decided.

He said on-the-spot fines of $4659 could now be issued to anyone meant to be isolating but found to be absent from home and “repeat breaches” could result in fines of up to $20,000.

Victoria Police would also have the power to detain anyone who continued to breach self-isolation orders.

Police minister Lisa Neville said: “We don’t want to do that, but Victoria Police, under the new powers, will have that ability to not just fine – but ultimately for those who continue to blatantly and deliberately breach those self-isolation rules, they can do that [be detained].”

She said dozens of people had already breached Melbourne’s 8pm to 5am curfew.

And from Tuesday, anyone who has the virus will be banned from leaving home – even for exercise.

“There will be no exercise,” said Mr Andrews, “if you are supposed to be isolating at home. You will need to stay in your home or on your property – 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.

“If there were particularly selfish behaviour, like for instance going to work when you have 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 $20,000.

“I apologise to those who were doing the right thing but we have simply no choice.”

The team of doorknockers will be boosted by an additional 500 ADF personnel and 300 Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) officers and “random and repeat doorknocks” would be made on people who have tested positive to COVID-19 and any close contacts.

In New South Wales, there are 12 new infections and former Australian Medical Association president Kerryn Phelps has called for masks to be made compulsory throughout the state and for flights from Victoria to be suspended.

“NSW is on a precipice and unless we take it seriously and actually have an effective closed border, we are going to see leakage of these cases from Victoria over to NSW,” Dr Phelps told Q+A on Monday night.

There were two new coronavirus cases in South Australia overnight – both women in their 20s.

In Melbourne, only supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, post offices and banks can remain open for the next six weeks. Hardware stores such as Bunnings will be open for tradespeople, but the public can access goods only via a ‘click and collect’ service. And movement is restricted to a five-kilometre radius.

Many industries, including meatworks, are being dramatically scaled back.

Burnet Institute research published in the Medical Journal of Australia found thatVictoria’s response to the second wave of COVID-19 had averted 9000 to 37,000 cases between 230 July.

Do you support the stiffer penalties for breaches of the rules? Do they go far enough?

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Written by Janelle Ward


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