Hefty fines imposed on lockdown rule breakers in Victoria, Australia, amid surge in cases

4 August 2020, 14:27

People wearing face masks cross the road outside Flinder Street Station in Melbourne
People wearing face masks cross the road outside Flinder Street Station in Melbourne. Picture: PA

By Megan White

More military personnel are being deployed to enforce coronavirus isolation orders in Victoria, Australia, with those caught breaking the rules facing fines of up to A$20,000.

The country is desperately trying to slow the spread of the virus in Victoria to prevent a national second wave of infections.

A night curfew has been imposed, with restrictions tightened on daily movements and large parts of the local economy ordered to close.

But nearly a third of those who contracted Covid-19 were not home isolating when checked on by officials, requiring tough new penalties, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday.

Fines of nearly A$5,000 will be issued to anyone breaching stay at home orders. Repeat offenders face a fine of up to A$20,000.

Mr Andrews said: “There is literally no reason for you to leave your home and if you were to leave your home and not be found there, you will have a very difficult time convincing Victoria police that you have a lawful reason.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews arrives to a press conference in Melbourne
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews arrives to a press conference in Melbourne. Picture: PA

The only exemption will be for urgent medical care, said Mr Andrews, adding anyone under a self-isolation order will no longer be allowed to leave their homes for outdoor exercise.

“Fresh air at the front door. Fresh air in your front yard or backyard or opening a window,” he said.

The state Premier said an additional 500 unarmed military personnel will this week deploy to Victoria to assist police in ensuring self-isolation orders are being complied with.

The deployment will join 1,500 troops already in Victoria and engaged in contact tracing, testing and assisting police at check points.

Australia has deployed almost 3,000 troops to help in virus logistical operations.

The country has recorded nearly 19,000 COVID-19 cases and 232 fatalities, far few than many other developed nations after closing its international borders early, imposing social distancing restrictions and mass virus testing.

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But as the country began to reopen, community transmissions rose significantly in Victoria which has recorded triple digit new cases for weeks.

It now has the bulk of infections in the country, with nearly 12,000 reported cases, and reported over 400 new cases on Tuesday alone.

With concerns that many people feel they have no choice but to continue working after a COVID-19 diagnosis, Australia said on Monday it would pay people in the state A$1,500 to stay home if they were ordered to and they do not have leave entitlements.