Newcastle police have yet to issue a fine over the latest social distancing rules to slow the spread of coronavirus, as three penalty infringements have been handed out elsehwhere around the state and local officers patrol the beaches to enforce tightening isolation regulations.
The most recent regulations mean residents not complying with rules to slow the spread of the coronavirus could face fines up to $11,000 or as long as six months in jail, but a spokesperson for NSW police has said officers have yet to issue a fine in the Northern region.
Newcastle police were on the city's beaches again on Wednesday, speaking with residents out amid the latest round of social distancing regulations and as the growth rate in cases in the Hunter continues to trend downwards.
Since Monday, officers have been given new powers to issue $5,500 on-the-spot fines for each day a person disobeys the law, but the residents have so far been generally cooperative the spokesperson said.
Newcastle's beaches were closed on Monday as City of Newcastle warned lifeguards would contact police if residents did not leave the sand.
Red flags were raised on all Newcastle Beaches, banning swimming, but Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said surfing would be allowed for exercise "if social distancing can be adhered to".
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Though no fines have been issued locally, and police say they are out to remind residents of the regulations and to help with community education and awareness, three men have been issued with penalty infringement notices in NSW since Tuesday.
A 39 year-old man found washing windscreens at an intersection at Chester Hill on Monday allegedly told police "it's a virus, it's not that bad" before he was issued with an infringement notice and direction to move along.
A 57 year-old man became abusive and refused directions at Bankstown Tuesday, police said. He was searched, given an infringement notice for offensive language and moved on.
And a 26 year-old at Parkes is alleged to have ignored several warnings and requests by police to leave the area. He eventually left after being told to move along.
NSW Police Commissioner Michael Fuller said police will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the wider community.
"I have said time and time again that one of the most important powers police have is the power of discretion," Commissioner Fuller said.
"Additional powers have been introduced with good reason and I encourage my officers to use them in the spirit in which they were intended - to keep the people of NSW safe throughout this crisis.
"I'd encourage people to continue to do the right thing without the need for police involvement and the use of these new powers."
The federal government's most recent measures have closed several public places - including gyms, pubs and clubs - and gatherings have been limited to two people, not including members of the same home or for essential work.
The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has said there are only four reasonable excuses for going out:
- Shopping for essentials, such as food or supplies to help keep you at home
- Medical appointments or compassionate care.
- Exercising outside, thought you must stick with just those in your household or a maximum of one other person
- Attending work or school if you cannot attend remotely