Moree police follow up reports of locals not self-isolating, social distancing during coronavirus crisis

Local police have been out and about ensuring the community adheres to social distancing rules. They have also been speaking with cafes and restaurants, encouraging them to remove or tape off outdoor tables and chairs to reduce the temptation for people to sit and wait for takeaway orders. Photo: Moree police
Local police have been out and about ensuring the community adheres to social distancing rules. They have also been speaking with cafes and restaurants, encouraging them to remove or tape off outdoor tables and chairs to reduce the temptation for people to sit and wait for takeaway orders. Photo: Moree police

The Moree community has been put on notice - if you don't socially isolate or adhere to social distancing rules, you could be facing some severe penalties, and not just the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus.

Moree police officer-in-charge Inspector Martin Burke said although it is pleasing to see most people are taking social distancing seriously, local police are receiving reports about returned travellers and others who may be required to self-isolate and are not following those directions.

"We want to assure the community that we are following up each and every one of those instances," he said.

"This health crisis is nothing like we've ever experiences. We understand the community is anxious and we thank them for their support and informing on people who may not be self-isolating.

"We're following up with them and taking appropriate action."

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Inspector Burke wants to remind the community that police have been given additional powers to issue penalty infringement notices or on-the-spot fines for people who don't comply with ministerial directions and public health orders.

Police from Thursday were given the power to hand out on-the-spot fines of $1000 to individuals and $5000 to businesses that breach public health orders or ministerial directions.

People in the firing line include returned travellers who contravene the requirement to self-quarantine for 14 days and those diagnosed with COVID-19 who similarly don't follow the rules. Fines will also apply for breaches of the prohibition on outdoor gatherings of 500 people and indoor gatherings of 100 people and anyone who breaches social distancing rules.

This new power is in addition to options police already had available under the Public Health Act, which means people can be jailed for six months and/or issued a fine of up to $11,000 if convicted.

"These are very difficult times. We can appreciate everyone is very anxious at this time but we ask the community to take these matters and restrictions seriously," Inspector Burke said.

"We're prepared to protect the community and continue our law enforcement capabilities throughout this pandemic."

Inspector Burke also wanted to draw attention to the new 10-person limit at funerals and said local police will be monitoring services to ensure everyone adheres to the new measures, which are intended to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"We ask that people grieve and pay respect to their family member or loved one but to do it in a way that complies with the legislation," he said.

"Social distancing rules still apply. The last thing police want to do is issue infringement notices for people who don't comply with these rules. Their actions can also bring funeral directors into jeopardy, so please have respect.

"If anyone has any questions, we're happy to answer them."

Police also ask that all local businesses who have outdoor dining seating to remove tables and chairs, or tape them off, to remove the temptation for people to sit while they wait for takeaway orders.

"We appreciate the cooperation of all restaurants and cafes to assist with the messaging and conditioning of people to understand it's not okay to sit down and wait," Inspector Burke said.

"It's about making sensible decisions now. If it's not essential don't do it. That's the reality.

"If we can keep it out of our community, that'd be ideal."