$500 fines for lockdown breaches as NSW records devastating case numbers

Pedestrians wearing masks in Sydney, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at COVID-19 press conference, wallet with Australian cash.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the increased penalties amid 239 new COVID-19 cases. (Images: Getty).

Leaving the house without wearing a mask could land millions of Sydneysiders with more than doubled fines, as NSW records a horrific 239 new cases of COVID-19.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the fines for breaking lockdown rules will increase from $200 to $500 on Thursday, with large swathes of Sydney to experience even tougher lockdown rules.

“State-wide, it’s clear when you need to wear a mask and if you don’t, you will be penalised and they’ll go up from $200 to $500 to allow that extra level of and that extra layer of deterrence,” Berejiklian said.

“We appreciate it’s a difficult time for everybody in our state but we also appreciate it only takes a handful of people, or a small percentage, to do the wrong thing, to cause a setback for all of us.

“We can’t afford setbacks. If we want to get out of this lockdown as soon as we can, [we] can’t afford setbacks.”

NSW Police Minister David Elliott said the Government “detests” the need to increase the penalties.

“We want to see a weekend where no fines are issued, a weekend where everybody is doing the right thing so in the next few weeks, the government can see these restrictions ease,” Elliott said.

“It is important for the community to rest assured that short-term pain has a long-term gain.”

Police to go door to door, new mask rules for Sydney lockdown

Masks will be mandatory outside the home for people living in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool Cumberland, Blacktown Parramatta, Georges River, and Campbelltown local government areas (LGA).

Additionally, residents of those areas must not travel more than 5 kilometres from home, unless there are “exceptional circumstances”.

That applies to exercise, grocery shopping and singles bubbles.

More broadly, people affected by the Greater Sydney lockdowns are required to wear masks in all public indoor settings, like supermarkets and chemists.

Masks must also be worn outside where it’s impossible to maintain a 1.5 metre physical distance, or when waiting in queues at businesses like cafes and restaurants.

“Thousands of additional police will be in and around the eight LGAs, greater metro Sydney, and still protecting rural NSW from COVID,” NSW Commissioner Mick Fuller said.

“We know that the numbers are too high today. We all want to come out of lockdown. These new powers, the additional police into these areas, is about getting us out of lockdown sooner.”

He said police will also be conducting “door to door” compliance checks to ensure people aren’t mingling with other households.

However, the police will be largely following up on complaints received through Crime Stoppers, and called on residents to report non-compliance to the police.

Dodgy Sydney employers put on notice

Police will also be targeting businesses reported as forcing non-essential workers to come in.

Under current requirements, businesses must allow all workers across Sydney to work from home where is possible, and to only have truly essential staff come into the workplace.

Businesses can face fines of up to $10,000 if they force non-essential staff to come into work, and now also face the risk of closure.

“Police will also from tomorrow be given the tower to close a public premise, a work site, a workplace, a business, if those entities continue to flout the public health orders,” Berejiklian said.

“We're noticing too much of a lack of compliance from businesses or from premises. If that's the case, police will be given.... the power to close down those premises.”

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