VICTORIA POLICE has revealed a dedicated operation involving both proactive and enforcement actions in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus.
On Monday, the state government announced that 500 police would form a coronavirus taskforce. Yesterday, what this taskforce will look like was explained in further detail.
Statewide Operation Sentinel, as it has been named, will involve 500 police enforcing self-isolation measures and restrictions introduced by the government.
Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent told a press conference on Tuesday that police had already begun door knocking homes and conducting spot checks on returned travellers, and had found that some people were not taking the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days after their return seriously.
"What we have found is that people are admitting that they are not staying at home and quarantining themselves. They've been visiting the movies, going out for breakfast or other meals. This is putting too many people at risk.
"People who ignore the restrictions are placing others at significant risk of contracting the virus and people will become infected. This includes their own family, friends and other people within the community," Deputy Commissioner Nugent said.
"It's quite selfish and we know it will put lives at risk. People need to comply with the directions - they have been put in place to limit the spread of this virus."
In addition to physically door knocking homes to conduct the checks, police will also use technology such as FaceTime to contact people required to self-isolate, so to conduct more checks on people than physical checks would allow for.
In addition to the 500 dedicated police, mobile patrol units across the state will also conduct proactive patrols to ensure people are complying with the bans on indoor and outdoor gatherings, and will patrol locations such as beaches and shopping centres.
Superintendent Jenny Wilson told The Courier earlier this week that local police had already begun conducting extra patrols, such as at shopping centres, to not only ensure public order but also to provide a sense of reassurance to the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The operation will be managed from the State Police Operations Centre in Melbourne. The 500 police will be comprised of members from the Public Order Response Team (PORT), the Transit Unit as well as other police from across the state.
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Police are working with Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to identify those people who are failing to self-isolate, while police are also beginning to receive tip offs from the general public.
Deputy Commissioner Nugent said each situation would be dealt with individually but police had a range of options available to them to deal with those who fail to comply with the directions of the Chief Health Officer.
These include official warnings, directions to return home or charging people on summons if they repeatedly refuse to obey directions.
While nobody has yet been charged with failing to or refusing to comply with direction, fines for individuals are $20,000 and for companies or corporations, are $100,000.
"We are urging people to take the restrictions seriously and do the right thing - don't be selfish is our message," he said.
He said police were not setting out to fine or arrest people but wanted to ensure everybody in the community understood the serious risks associated with coronavirus and the importance of complying with the directions of the Chief Health Officer.
While police understand most people will comply with the new requirements, the spot checks will also be an opportunity for authorities to check on the health and wellbeing of those in self-isolation and to determine if they need further support or medical assistance.
"So far, people are for the most part complying with the restrictions. We want to ensure that continues and people are showing each other the right amount of respect," he said.
For more information visit dhhs.vic.gov.au/novelcoronavirus or phone the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 for advice if you are displaying symptoms.
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