Illawarra police now have more powers to ensure compliance with government directions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As of Thursday, new state government legislation under the Public Health Act allows police to issue a penalty infringement notice, or an on-the-spot fine, for the offence of not complying with a ministerial direction or a public health order.
This on the spot fine is $1000 for individuals and $5000 for businesses.
Wollongong Police District Superintendent Evan Quarmby said generally people had been complying with the restrictions imposed except for some who were still gathering in crowds or who wanted to host large events.
No fines had been issued in the district yet.
"I am disappointed to report that some ignorant people think they still know better and flaunt the restrictions imposed," he said.
"Let me make it perfectly clear, the NSW Police Force can and will enforce the legislation that is there to protect the wider community.
"These are not normal times. People need to accept they need to adjust their normal routine.
"This is about personal responsibility. We expect people to be socially responsible."
Police will enforce self-isolation of diagnosed persons and incoming travellers; mass gatherings and social distancing rules; and closure of social gathering places such as pubs, clubs and restaurants.
The new power is in addition to the options that were already available to officers where a person may also be issued with a Court Attendance Notice with a penalty of up to $11,000 or 6 months imprisonment if convicted.
Supt Quarmby said it was "business as usual" for his district with officers performing their usual roles.
He said uniformed officers would still have a visibility presence in the community to deter anyone not following the coronavirus rules.
We are placing extra patrols around retailers and food courts. We are responding to reports of people flouting the restrictions," he said.
"We will continue to work with local retailers to ensure the calm, fair and equitable distribution of resources.
"We will continue to work with the vulnerable groups in our community to ensure they are well supported."
Supt Quarmby said officers could wear personal protective equipment to protect themselves from being infected.
Lake Illawarra Police District Commander, Superintendent Dean Smith assured residents that police would intervene if members in the community did not comply.
"Our officers are conducting proactive and high visibility patrols across Lake Illawarra Police District to make sure people in public places are sticking to the social distancing guidelines and are not in contravention of any ministerial directions or public health orders.
"I am encouraged to see most members of the community are taking this situation seriously and heeding the social distancing advice of the government.
"However, disturbingly, our officers have already responded to a number of reports of breaches of self-isolation by members of the community."
Wollongong City Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said it was up to us residents "to play our part".
"I don't want to see us go into another stage of lockdown. Exercise responsibility now so life does not get more restrictive," he said.
"Wollongong City Council, with all other agencies, want to emphasise the importance of social distancing, keeping a physical distance of 1.5 metres, personal hygiene and washing hands, limiting social gatherings and if you are not feeling well then isolate and contact your GP.
"These guidelines can limit the spread of the virus and get us back onto a normal path as quick as possible. It is important for us to take responsibility of our behaviour."
Suspected instances of non-compliance with government orders can be reported to Crime Stoppers.
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