Australia's Victoria state to deploy military, impose A$5,000 fines to enforce coronavirus isolation

Australia's second-biggest city Melbourne already under night curfew announced fresh restrictions on industries on Monday, including retail and construction, as it steps up desperate efforts to contain the spread of a resurgent coronavirus.
People walking along Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne, Australia, on Aug 4, 2020.
People walking along Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne, Australia, on Aug 4, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australia’s second-most populous state Victoria said on Tuesday (Aug 4) military personnel will be deployed to enforce Covid-19 isolation orders, with anyone caught in breach of those rules facing tough new fines.  

Victoria earlier this week imposed a night curfew, tightened restrictions on people’s daily movements and ordered large parts of the local economy to close to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  

But nearly a third of those who had contracted Covid-19 were not self-isolating at home when checked on by officials, requiring tough new penalties, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday.  

Mr Andrews said 500 military personnel will this week deploy to Victoria to bolster enforcement of self-isolation orders, with fines of nearly A$5,000 (S$4,900) for breaching stay-at-home orders. The only exemption will be for urgent medical care.  

“There is literally no reason for you to leave your home and if you were to leave your home and not be found there, you will have a very difficult time convincing Victoria police that you have a lawful reason,” Mr Andrews told reporters in Melbourne .  

Victoria on Tuesday reported 439 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours. Mr Andrews said 11 people had died from the virus since Monday. In total, Australia has recorded nearly 19,000 Covid-19 cases and 232 fatalities, far fewer than many other developed nations.

Australia’s second-biggest city, Melbourne, already under night curfew, announced fresh restrictions on industries, including retail and construction, on Monday in a bid to contain a resurgence of the coronavirus.  

From Wednesday night, Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, will close retail, some manufacturing and administrative businesses as part of a six-week lockdown.

The new measures are expected to double the number of jobs affected by coronavirus restrictions to around 500,000 and, along with those working from home, will keep one million people from moving around for work.

Police officers and soldiers patrol a popular running track in Melbourne, on Aug 4, 2020. PHOTO: AFP


Having already imposed the strictest restrictions on movement, Victoria declared a “state of disaster” on Sunday.  

Australia has fared better than many countries, with 18,361 coronavirus cases and 221 deaths from a population of 25 million, but the surge in community transmissions in Victoria raised fears that the infection rate could blow out of control.

Supermarkets will remain open, along with restaurant takeaway and delivery, but many other retail outlets will shut. 

The outbreak in Victoria, which makes up a quarter of the national economy, has scuppered hopes for a quick rebound from Australia’s first recession in nearly three decades.