Victoria Police is promising a common sense approach to fines for flouting social distancing rules after a string of reports of people being slugged for driving lessons, social media posts and even paddle-boarding.
Deputy commissioner Shane Patton said he would also personally review every fine issued for failing to comply with coronavirus restrictions.
“If some of those aren’t properly issued or don’t pass the common sense test they will be withdrawn,” Mr Patton said on Tuesday.
Victoria Police issued 99 fines for breaching coronavirus restrictions in the 24 hours to Tuesday afternoon, and conducted 507 spot checks.
Among those fined were four people having a barbecue at a bathing box on Melbourne’s Brighton Beach, and 10 people partying in a backyard in Strathdale, in central Victoria. A further 10 people gathered at suburban Montrose were fined by police on Sunday.
However, police have also fined a teenage L-plater $1652 for having a driving lesson with her mother – although the penalty was later withdrawn.
A couple from Victoria’s east were fined $1652 each after one of them shared images of a previous holiday on Facebook. Elsewhere, a doctor was reportedly fined for going paddle-boarding off a Melbourne beach during the Easter weekend.
“We’re human, we’re not going to get everything right all the time and we’ll make mistakes,” Mr Patton said.
“We made a mistake to issue to a person an infringement from a social media posting and that was withdrawn.
“We’re happy to admit when we get it wrong.”
Almost 21,000 spot checks have been carried out since March 21, and police have issued 1249 infringement notices.
“It is not us who are choosing to make up what we’re doing and say
‘let’s issue a tonne of infringements just for the fun of it’. We don’t want to issue one infringement at all,” he said.
“The preference for us is to issue warnings, for the public to be compliant and the public to adhere to the chief health officer’s guidelines.”
Under Victoria’s stage three restrictions, residents can leave their homes only to shop for food and essential supplies, medical care or caregiving, work or education, if necessary, and exercise.
People can be fined $1652 if they leave home for non-essential reasons and businesses face a $9913 fine if caught doing the wrong thing.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos confirmed on Tuesday 10 people had tested positive for COVID-19 overnight, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1291.
It follows just 13 new cases of the virus on Sunday and three on Saturday.
Victorian authorities will make a concerted effort to tackle transmission in the community by significantly increasing coronavirus testing from Tuesday.
Anyone who has had a fever or breathing symptoms will be able to get tested for the virus at 40 clinics across the state or by their GP.
Previously, testing had been available only for those who had recently returned from travel or who had come into contact with a confirmed case.
“We need to focus now on community transmission and by opening up the testing criteria, we think we’ll be able to gauge the level of infection,” Ms Mikakos said.
“This will also help us to determine how we respond in terms of the restrictions going forward.”
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said he hoped the broader testing criteria would capture any undetected cases in the community and “drive cases down to zero”.
“There is the potential to walk back the most significant restrictions if we can drive numbers right down,” he said.
Victoria’s state of emergency was extended at the weekend to May 11, which allows the government to keep up social distancing measures.
Fourteen people with coronavirus have died in Victoria, while more than 1100 have recovered.
About 40 people with the virus are in hospital, with 15 in intensive care.