THEY have been granted new powers in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, but Newcastle police say they are hopeful officers will not have to issue any fines for people disobeying public health orders to self-isolate and practice social distancing.
Police were out in force on Wednesday at shopping centres, parks and the city's beaches speaking to people about the need to remain at home unless they were exercising, shopping or heading to work and urging people not to congregate in groups.
The NSW government passed tighter restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus on Monday night, with police now given the power to deliver on-the-spot fines of $1000 to individuals who disobey the rules.
The maximum penalty that a person can face in court is a fine of $11,000 and six months in jail.
Newcastle City police Superintendent Brett Greentree said police on Wednesday spoke to dozens of people and issued several warnings, but did not issue any fines.
And he said a key measure of the success of the new powers and the highly-visible police presence would be zero infringement notices across Newcastle.
"We do have the power to issue fines, but what we want to do, which I think we have been doing, is working with the community and educating the community," Superintendent Greentree said.
"The fines are there if needed. And we will use them for those who won't comply. Because at the end of the day the restrictions are placed upon everybody for a reason and that is for the protection of ourselves and each other."
Police were spotted at Dixon Park and Bar Beach on Wednesday, speaking to people on the sand and around the car parks.
"We've had police patrolling the beach, but that is more about reassurance," Superintendent Greentree said. "We just want to be seen, we just want to reassure the community in times of uncertainty."
Superintendent Greentree said while the police had been granted new powers to issue fines, he wanted to stress one of the "most important powers" police had was discretion.
Elsewhere in NSW, three people were issued with infringement notices for not complying with a ministerial direction or a public health order on Tuesday.
One of those people, a 39-year-old man washing windows at an intersection in Chester Hill told police he had no intention of complying with the order and allegedly said of COVID-19: "It's just a virus, it's not that bad".
And on Wednesday, a woman was also charged with the offence under the Public Health Act after she allegedly coughed on strangers in Cooma.
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