As restrictions start to ease around Victoria, the state government is imposing financial disincentives to keep Victorians socially distanced.
Implementing a fine of just under $5,000 for gathering in groups of more than five, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the strict new social distancing measures are to control Victoria’s suppression of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.
“There’ll be rules all the way through—because there’s no choice. If you just have a kind of free for all, then we won’t contain this,” Andrews said at a press conference Sept. 29.
“We will get to a point that’s much closer to normal…but you can’t just pretend it over” Andrews said.
The enforcement on unlawful gatherings comes as Melbourne’s curfew ended after nine weeks amidst falling COVID-19 infections in the state. For the last week, new virus cases have maintained an average of around 10.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton has vowed authorities will clamp down hard on any unprohibited gatherings, and won’t hesitate to issue the fine.
“The use of discretion will be only in the most extreme circumstance, and very rarely applied,” he said at a press conference on Sept. 28.
Patton did however acknowledged that there was fatigue in the community over the lockdowns and urged Victorians to help monitor their neighbourhoods for those they thought were breaking the Chief Health Officer’s social distancing orders.
It is hoped the $4,957 fine will act as a deterrent to party-goers and protesters who are identified as prime targets for Victoria Police.
The new fine against unlawful gatherings comes after crime statistics released Sept. 23 identified COVID-19 penalties as the second-highest crime with over 6,000 Pubic Health and Safety offences being recorded.
But the strict enforcement of CCP virus restrictions has been met with strong opposition in recent weeks, leading to demonstrations in Melbourne’s CBD and several court class actions.
The public criticism though has not affected the Andrews government which is currently doubling down on police enforcement via the Omnibus Bill which would give Victoria Police extra powers and allow the employment of any licensed entity to act on behalf of authorities, even making arrests in relation to the breaches of COVID-19 health orders. If passed people determined as a COVID-19 contact trace risk can be lock away indefinitely.
The Omnibus Bill has been highly contested by barristers, MPs and human rights groups.