$1000 on-the-spot fines for people spreading COVID-19
PEOPLE who are not following government directions to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) can now expect to be issued on the spot fines of $1000.
NSW Police have been given full authority to use any powers available to officers to enforce all COVID-19-related ministerial directions.
A number of ministerial directions been announced to date, covering incoming travellers, diagnosed persons, mass gatherings and social distancing rules, and the closure of social gathering places.
It is an offence for a person to fail to comply with an order, and severe penalties apply.
Police have now been given additional power to issue Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) to anyone found to be in contravention of a ministerial direction.
PINs carry on-the-spot fines of $1000 for individuals and $5000 for businesses.
This is in addition to the existing enforcement powers available to officers, which include issuing Court Attendance Notices with a maximum penalty of up to $11,000 and/or six months imprisonment for individuals.
Commissioner Mick Fuller said the circumstances call for strong action - and police stand ready to respond.
"This health crisis is like nothing we have ever experienced, with more than 1000 cases now confirmed in NSW, and the numbers continuing to grow," he said.
"I'm encouraged that most members of the community are taking this issue seriously and are adhering to the government advice.
"However, disturbingly, our officers have already responded to dozens of reports of breaches of ministerial directions from members of the community.
"This is astounding, and incredibly disappointing, as these people are putting themselves and the wider community at an unacceptable risk.
"The last thing we want to do is to have to use police powers to ensure compliance, but let me be clear - we have been using them and we will continue to do so."
Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said the measures were tough but necessary to minimise the risk the pandemic poses to public safety.
"Despite the majority of people doing the right thing, we are still seeing reckless and irresponsible behaviour that endangers the lives of others, particularly to elderly and immunocompromised members of the community," Mr Elliott said.
"The rules are clear. No more than one person should occupy a two by two metre area, and public places such as the beach and retail outlets are no exception.
"Our message to the community is simple: be vigilant, be sensible, and stay up to date with the latest health advice.
"No one is above the law. If you decide to ignore a direction to self-isolate, you will be caught and you may find yourself slapped with a hefty fine."
Commissioner Fuller said in addition to responding to reports of non-compliance, police had put in place a number of proactive measures to help stop the spread of the virus.
"Our officers are conducting proactive patrols in every Police Area Command and Police District across the state, to add another layer of enforcement and ensure people in public places are sticking to the rules.
"These patrols also form part of our ongoing work with retailers, to ensure calm and fairness at the checkouts.
"I want to urge the people of NSW to stay safe and follow the official government advice.
"Now more than ever, we need to pull together and fight this virus as a community."