Hundreds of police will patrol roads into the regions in an effort to deter Melburnians from the temptation to travel into regional Victoria as it reopens after the latest lockdown.
Victoria Police's Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent told reporters on Wednesday that a new operation would begin as of midnight on Thursday to coincide with restrictions easing in regional Victoria, but continuing largely unchanged in Melbourne.
"Some people in greater Melbourne might be tempted to head into regional Victoria for all sorts of reasons, whether that is visiting a pub or cafe for a meal or some other reason," he said.
"As a result of that, we are ensuring that Victoria Police protects the regional area so we don't get the spread of the virus into those areas."
While some patrols will be conducted to deter an "exodus" to regional Victoria in the next 24-hours, about 200 police will be tasked to Operation Guardian to protect regional Victoria through "permanent and highly visible police patrols on regional arterials as well as back roads".
Rather than the "ring of steel" put in place during Victoria's second wave of coronavirus, police will set up random checkpoints with booze buses, conduct roving patrols and use ANPR technology to detect and identify people travelling in vehicles registered to people with Melbourne addresses.
This has been the more recent approach to policing differing levels of restrictions in Melbourne and regional Victoria, with Deputy Commissioner Nugent saying it had been "quite effective".
Along with these patrols, he said Operation Sentinel would continue with police to target tourist areas and other places where Melburnians may travel to.
"[We will] make sure we identify those people and deal with them appropriately," he said.
Deputy Commissioner Nugent said the majority of people in the community had done a "fantastic job" in adhering to the rules through multiple difficult lockdowns, but said there were some people who chose to ignore them.
He said there was a $5452 fine at stake for those who contravene the chief health officer's directions, and people unauthorised to travel could expect to be intercepted if they try to travel into regional Victoria.
I am imploring people to please abide by the rules, stay in Melbourne, don't spread the virus within the regional areas and we will get out of this lockdown at some point in the near future.
"There is a huge fine for heading into regional areas for a restaurant, cafe or pub meal so please don't do it.
"I am imploring people to please abide by the rules, stay in Melbourne, don't spread the virus within the regional areas and we will get out of this lockdown at some point in the near future."
Regional businesses will still be required to check the IDs of patrons to ensure they are from regional Victoria.
"It's not doing our job for us, it is contributing to a whole community approach to ensure we identify people who shouldn't be there. Businesses have engaged in the process because it's important to them to keep their businesses operating.
"It is not ideal but we are all doing things during this pandemic we don't ordinarily do. I want to thank those people and businesses to help keep those communities safe."
Police are also continuing to patrol the border with New South Wales.
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