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Staggering number of Australians in coronavirus self-isolation weren’t at home during police checks

A dozen people who were supposed to be in self-isolation after touching down in Australia weren’t at home during police spot checks.

Victoria Police ramped up quarantine spot checks on Thursday to ensure people aren’t flouting coronavirus isolation rules.  

The patrols and Facetime checks come as officers prepare to increase their presence in public places including using drones to keep an eye on beachgoers ahead of hot weather at the weekend.    

Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton AM flagged the potential to bring in the military to support enforcement activities if laws are further tightened in Victoria. 

Police conducted 88 spot checks in Victoria since Saturday, March 31 with about 380 police officers knocking on doors around the state over 24 hours. 

They also used Facetime to check up on people self-isolating in a new measure to protect officers from coming into contact with potential positive cases. 

Of the 88 checks conducted 12 people weren’t home and several had provided the wrong address to Border Patrol officials on arrival back in Australia. 

But Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton AM said it seems the Victorian Premier’s hardline directives are getting through to the general public. 

‘People seem to be complying much better. They seem to be heeding the Premier’s strong words on this,’ he said. 

Victoria Police Officers will continue to monitor the general public’s behaviour to ensure community members aren’t flouting advice to stay at home.

Commissioner Ashton said they’ll be out in force at the weekend to make sure residents continue to stay at home despite the forecast of hot weather.  

‘We’ll be patrolling beaches. We’ll also be doing aerial patrols around beaches both with our air wing but also we’ll be endeavoring to use some drone technology at beaches to try and make sure that we’re monitoring group activity there,’ he said.  

‘We do not want to see what happened last weekend in New South Wales. We do not want to see large groups of people sitting cheek-to-jowl on the beach on their mats, blowing up their blow up things. That’s ridiculous. Going to the beach is a nice thing to do on a hot day. We’re not in that situation right now, we’re in a state of emergency.’ 

Mr Ashton also indicated they’re ready to engage additional forces if tensions escalate further in Victoria.  

‘Through emergency management Victoria we have access to additional workforce. If we had to we could talk to Australian Defence Force. We haven’t had to do that yet but that would be an end game if we needed to do that. So we’ll just keep ramping up we’ll be continuing to increase as we need to,’ he said. 

Individuals face fines of up to $25,000 and businesses face $100,000 fines for breaching isolation restrictions. 

Members of the public had been calling police to report large gatherings and people who are not self-isolating when they should be. 

‘[We’ve also received calls] about businesses they think are open when they shouldn’t be as well,’ he said. 

‘We have had a few calls in relation to gatherings of people that people are concerned about so we’ve been sort of looking to respond to all of those calls.

‘Lives will depend on everyone doing the right thing and particularly at the moment it’s an important time when we live in such a world where the individual comes first, at the moment community must come first.’ 

Mr Ashton said police are yet to issue fines to anyone as people who haven’t complied didn’t understand the rules.

‘They have been deeply apologetic and they’re doing the right thing now. We’ve applied the common sense principle to that,’ he said. 

He said if police catch people who are deliberately and knowingly breaking the rules, they will be fined.  

‘We’ll go down that track if we find someone is absolutely flouting it,’ he said.

Meanwhile 400 police officers are in self-isolation and two have tested positive for COVID-19 in Victoria.  

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