$5000 fines for NSW businesses that ignore Covid-19 restrictions

$5000 fines for NSW businesses that ignore Covid-19 restrictions

NSW police will now have the power to give on-the-spot fines to individuals and businesses that flout ministerial directions aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

The rules relate to incoming travellers, people who have been diagnosed with the virus, mass gatherings and social distancing rules, and the closure of social gathering places.

The state's police will be able to issue Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) of $1000 for individuals and $5000 for businesses.

This is in addition to the existing enforcement powers available to officers, which include issuing Court Attendance Notices with a maximum penalty of up to $11,000 and/or six months imprisonment for individuals.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says the circumstances call for strong action, and police stand ready to respond.

"This health crisis is like nothing we have ever experienced, with more than 1000 cases now confirmed in NSW, and the numbers continuing to grow," Commissioner Fuller said.

"I'm encouraged that most members of the community are taking this  issue seriously and are adhering to the government advice."

However, he said it was disturbing that officers have already had to respond to dozens of reports of breaches of ministerial directions from members of the community.

"This is astounding, and incredibly disappointing, as these people are putting themselves and the wider community at an unacceptable risk," he said.

"The last thing we want to do is to have to use police powers to ensure compliance, but let me be clear we have been using them and we will continue to do so."

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said the measures were tough but necessary to minimise the risk the pandemic poses to public safety.

"Despite the majority of people doing the right thing, we are still seeing reckless and irresponsible behaviour that endangers the lives of others, particularly to elderly and immunocompromised members of the community," Elliott said.

"The rules are clear. No more than one person should occupy a two by two metre area, and public places such as the beach and retail outlets are no exception.

"Our message to the community is simple: be vigilant, be sensible, and stay up to date with the latest health advice."

NSW Police Force last week launched operation Coronavirus to guide the organisation's response, with highly specialised officers providing practical and logistical support.

The Police Operations Centre (POC), the command location for coordinating all police activities in response to major incidents, has been made operational.

Commissioner Fuller said in addition to responding to reports of non-compliance, police had put in place a number of proactive measures to help stop the spread of the virus.

"Our officers are conducting proactive patrols in every Police Area Command and Police District across the state, to add another layer of enforcement and ensure people in public places are sticking to the rules.

"These patrols also form part of our ongoing work with retailers, to ensure calm and fairness at the checkouts.

"I want to urge the people of NSW to stay safe and follow the official government advice."

Updated at 5:05pm AEDT on 25 March 2020.


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