Australians in Victoria face $20,000 fines for breaking new strict lockdown rules

People living in Melbourne must stay at home between 8pm and 5am. Credit: AP

People living in Australia's coronavirus hotspot of Victoria could face penalties of up to $20,000 (£11,157) for breaching newly implemented stay-at-home lockdown rules.

Australia had widely been viewed as a Covid-19 success story, with strict lockdown measures resulting in low deaths and cases, but a "quarantine leak" has caused a huge surge of infection in Victoria.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he was being forced to implement new rules and harsh punishments because people were not obeying the guidance.

The Australian state recorded 439 new cases of coronavirus and 11 deaths overnight, taking the region's total death toll to 147.

Mr Andrews said police would be able to give on the spot fines of up to $4957 for anyone who fails to self-isolate and repeated breaches could result in a fine of up to $20,000.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has imposed strict new punishments for those breaching lockdown rules. Credit: AP

"If there were repeat breaches, if there were particularly selfish behaviour like, for instance, going to work when you had the virus, then there is the alternative pathway and that is, of course, taking you to the Magistrates Court, where the maximum penalty that can be applied to you is $20,000,” he said.

“Stay at home means stay at home for all of us, but it certainly means stay at home for those who have the virus or those who have been directed to isolate."

Mr Andrews said non-essential businesses will close starting late Wednesday in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city.

The new restrictions followed Mr Andrews on Sunday declaring a disaster in Victoria's capital Melbourne and introducing an evening curfew for six weeks. 

People in Victoria are only allowed to leave their house for four reasons; essential shopping, to receive or give care, daily exercise and work.

Those living in Victoria's Melbourne must stick to a strict curfew between 8pm and 5am.

Face masks are also compulsory in Victoria, with police able to issue $200 fines for any breaches.

People living in Melbourne are only allowed to venture up to 5km away from their homes and only one person per household can leave to go shopping each day.

Victoria is an alarming anomaly in Australia, which has all but eliminated community transmission elsewhere.

What's gone wrong in Melbourne?

Tony Blakely, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Melbourne, told ITV News the problem there was caused by "quarantine leaks" and by late lockdowns.

"The reason it's been so bad in Victoria is because when it got out of that quarantine, [coronavirus] got onto some super spreaders and then onto people with large families, congregating together and contact tracing wasn't enough to get on top of it - it just got out of control," he said.

He says the regional lockdowns implemented to tackle that rise did spread far enough and "should have probably gone, in retrospect, into a much wider lockdown much sooner".

"We did do very well - not quite as well as New Zealand - the problem was the leakage out of quarantine in Melbourne."

He said the leak - people breaking quarantine rules and mixing with other communities - was due to "some poor quality controls".

The huge fines are 'definitely scary'

Briton Kelsey Arpino, who is originally St Albans told ITV News of her worries caused by the risk of fines.

"If you leave the house without a mask its $5,000 there and then, for being in temp work, I don't even have $5,000 in my bank account," she said, adding how it's "definitely scary".

She acknowledged how sticking to the guidelines seems "really easy" but said new measures, such as the 5km rule, are difficult to follow.

She hired a car before the new rule came in from a dealership over 5km from her home and says she will be forced to break the law when she returns it.

Australians are 'dobbing each other in'

A police dispatcher, originally from London, told ITV News she's noticed an unusual trend of people "dobbing" each other in to the police for breaking lockdown rules.

Liz Hodder said Australians are "massively loyal" and they don't like the idea of calling the police on their compatriots.

She said it's been "quite interesting" to receive calls from Australians who are phoning the police on their neighbours who might be having parties.

"We want to keep ourselves safe, so people are dobbing each other in, which has been quite a surprise."

She added: "Now we're meant to be wearing masks everywhere, people are ringing to say 'I saw a lady in the street and she didn't have her mask on'."