'It's disappointing': PM calls for drastic action after hundreds refuse tests

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suggested Victorians refusing coronavirus tests should be fined.

Mr Morrison called the revelation nearly one thousand people in two Melbourne hotspots who refused to be tested amid a blitz as “disappointing”.

“We are doing it the Australian way, the use of incentive carrot not stick, occasionally the stick will have to be put about, whether it's fines or sanctions in place to ensure we keep everybody safe,” he told Channel Nine’s Today show.

On Wednesday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews revealed 928 people in Broadmeadows and Keilor Downs had refused testing as he announced 10 postcodes incorporating 36 suburbs, would be placed under a stringent four-week lockdown as cases continue to soar.

Scott Morrison has warned Victorians may be fined if they refuse testing. Source: Today

"Now I can't change that. That's happened. All I can do is encourage those people come forward and get tested today,” he said.

In the last four days alone, Victoria has recorded 229 cases, the majority of those locally acquired in the Melbourne region.

Yet while Mr Andrews urged for people to not refuse tests moving forward on Tuesday, he appeared cautious about making testing compulsory.

"We have looked at everything across the board when it comes to all these sorts of options, particularly when it comes to powers of enforcement and trying to oblige people to do certain things,” he said.

"They have all been given consideration and if we are not doing it there is usually a good reason for that.

“The forced testing almost certainly involves more contact than the system we have now."

Enforcing testing ‘legal and ethical’ issue, expert warns

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said on Tuesday governments “do have powers” under the current emergency acts enforced during the coronavirus pandemic.

"My request to all the people in Victoria, if someone approaches you and asks you to please do a test, please comply,” he said.

A woman is tested for coronavirus from her car in Chadstone. Source: AAP

However Professor Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist with the University of Melbourne, told The Age he believes the Victorian government would not be able to enact such powers if someone was showing no symptoms of the virus.

“To try and compel everybody to have a test would be starting to reach over into breaches of civil liberties so there is some serious weighing up here,” he said.

“Now, there is legislation that does give public health authorities power to force people to be treated or detained if they are posing a high public health risk to society.

“But to say that somebody who has refused a coronavirus test and is not symptomatic is endangering people’s lives well, that probably would not pass a legal test nor an ethical one.”

Mr Andrews has opted for a lockdown but refrained from implementing a ‘ring-fencing’ strategy that would see the suburbs completely shut off from the rest of Melbourne with policed roadblocks.

Yet he warned police were “actively” enforcing the new restrictions and would be randomly stopping people, including motorists, with fines of up to $1652 handed out if people are not complying.

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