By SAT News Desk
MELBOURNE, 24 March 2020 17:57: The Victoria Police has today started a dedicated operation to enforce containment measures put in place to combat the spread of Coronavirus. Operation Sentinel will see police conduct spot checks on returning travelers who should be in self-isolation and follow up tips received from the general public and other sources.
It will also enforce bans on indoor and outdoor gatherings at non-essential venues and businesses. Police will proactively patrol places of mass gathering such as beaches and shopping centers to ensure restrictions are being complied with.
The operation is being managed out of the State Police Operations Centre and has 500 police from Transit, the Public Order Response Team (PORT), and police across Victoria who will perform these checks and enforce bans.
In a reply to an SAT query about the task force, Victoria Police says, “We will provide everyone with further details around the task force, its operating model and how it will ensure public measures around self-isolation and mass gatherings are adhered to as soon as possible.”
“It’s also important to note that we will not be providing breakdowns of how many police will be working on this task force by specific suburbs, regions or towns. The Taskforce will be cover the entire state and any comments made will be at a state level only at this stage,” the Victoria Police adds.
Deputy Commissioner Nugent said situations will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and police have a range of options available to deal with those who refuse to follow the directions of the Chief Health Officer.
“People can be issued with an official warning, directed to return home, or charged on summons where a person repeatedly refuses to obey a direction or blatantly disregards the restrictions. People can also face heavy fines” he said.
“We are urging people to take the restrictions seriously and do the right thing – don’t be selfish is our message,” he said.
“For police, it’s not just about fines or arrests but ensuring everyone in the community understands the serious risks associated with Coronavirus and the importance of complying with the directions from the Chief Health Officer.”
“We know this is a challenging time for everyone and we’ll be asking our officers to use a commonsense approach when dealing with these matters.”
“Already we have seen a degree of ignorance where people think it’s okay to just go out for a breakfast or to see a friend when it’s absolutely not.”
“We also want to take advantage of Operational Sentinel to engage with the community, provide any further education around current requirements, and do everything we can to protect the safety of all Victorians.”
“It gives police the opportunity to check on the health and wellbeing of those in self-isolation, and see if they need any further support such as medical assistance.”
“So far, people are for the most part complying with the restrictions. We want to ensure that continues and people are showing each other the right amount of respect.”
“People who ignore the restrictions are placing others at significant risk, which means more people will become infected. This includes their family, friends, and others in the community.”
” Police are working with the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to identify those who are failing to self-isolate. Spot checks are already being performed on individuals who have returned from overseas, and on venues and suspected mass gatherings. At this time, no one has been charged with refusing or failing to comply with the direction. Fines for people who do not comply with the direction are $20,000 for individuals or $100,000 for companies or corporations, says a Victoria Police Tweet today.