'No one is above the law': First coronavirus fines handed out

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

Police have come down hard on Australians caught ignoring strict ministerial directions in the face of the rapidly spreading coronavirus, handing out the first round of hefty COVID-19- related fines.

Officers patrolling the Sydney CBD on Thursday identified a massage parlour still operating despite a Public Health Order enforced from midnight Wednesday demanding businesses of its type close.

Police issued the female business owner a $5000 Penalty Infringement Notice for failing to comply with a direction under Section 7 of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).

Three of her female staff were also issued a $1000 fine each.

In an unrelated incident, police fined a 65-year-old woman who returned from Bali on Saturday but failed to adhere to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

Police came to her home in Lake Macquarie, in the NSW Hunter Region, on Monday and issued her a warning for breaching the order.

Police patrol closed businesses around the usually busy Darling Harbour precinct in Sydney on Thursday. Source: AAP

On Thursday morning, police were told the woman once again left her home and later that day officers returned to issue her a $1000 fine for doing so.

Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said on Friday police found the woman walking around outside.

“Of course, this brings me no joy but whilst we are safe and whilst people are behaving well, we have to listen to the messaging from the premier, from the chief medical officer if we're going to get through this and minimise the loss of life,” he told reporters.

“So be sure the police will continue to turn up, we'll continue to protect you but you need to listen to the messaging. If you don't, you will get a $1,000 fine or a $5,000 fine.”

He said since police attained clearance to issue the tough on-the-spot fines, and calls from civilians about people not adhering to self isolation rules had shot up significantly.

“Prior to that, we had received around 200 Crime Stoppers calls for people not complying. Since then, that has gone up to 800 which is 600 calls in two days,” he said.

Police on guard in the Sydney CBD on Thursday. Source: AAP

David Elliott, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, slammed those who continued to flout the rules, which he said applied to everyone.

“No one is above the law. If you decide to ignore a direction, you will be caught, and you may very well find yourself slapped with a hefty fine,” Mr Elliot said.

“The fact that people are still not complying is the reason why we have police out in full force enforcing these directions. This behaviour is not only reckless and stupid, but potentially deadly.”

NSW Police officers now have the additional power to issue on-the-spot Penalty Infringement Notices to anyone found to be breaching the new directions introduced to curb the coronavirus spread.

The infringements carry on-the-spot fines of $1000 for individuals and $5000 for businesses.

Restrictions ramped up

More business closures were ordered and stricter social distancing rules were enforced this week as coronavirus cases in Australia continued to climb, with the death toll reaching 13 on Thursday.

There are currently 2799 confirmed cases in Australia, up from 1709 on Monday and nearly tripled since Saturday.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian encouraged people on Friday to stay inside their homes this weekend.

“Please make sure that if you're in self-isolation, stay in self- isolation. Please make sure that you don't undertake any activity unless you absolutely have to,” she told reporters.

“Please make sure if you're a senior or someone who has a vulnerable illness, please don't leave your home.”

Businesses ordered to close

  • Tattoo parlours, waxing, tanning and nail salons

  • Hairdressers and barbers can continue but must strictly manage social distancing

  • Amusement parks and arcades, and indoor and outdoor play centres

  • Auction houses

  • Community and recreation centres, health clubs

  • Fitness centres and yoga and barre classes

  • Boot camps and personal training for more than 10 people

  • Galleries, museums, libraries and swimming pools

Current social distancing rules

  • Keep 1.5 metres away from other people at all times

  • There should be four square metres of space for each person in an enclosed room

  • Just five people are allowed at weddings

  • No more than 10 are advised for funerals, however this would be judged on a case-by-case basis

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