The region's police will be cracking down on 'unfathomable' self-isolation breaches, after already catching multiple offenders disobeying public health orders.
A further 21 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the Hunter New England Health District. It brings the total number of cases to 124. Oxley Police District Commander Kylie Endemi said she understood the community had concerns but stressed the police were using all available powers and resources to enforce public health orders. "Disturbingly, our officers have attended a number of breaches of self-isolation within our communities," she said. "Many warnings have been given, but let me be clear - we have the powers available under the public health act, and we will use them." Police can now issue penalty infringement notices to anyone found to be in contravention of a ministerial direction. PINs carry on-the-spot fines of $1000 for individuals and $5000 for businesses. This is in addition to the existing enforcement powers available to officers, which include issuing Court Attendance Notices with a maximum penalty of up to $11,000 and six months imprisonment for individuals. "We will be using these powers to enforce these orders and directions," Superintendent Endemi said. "The police in this district are well prepared, and we stand ready to respond to any incident we may face." Superintendent Endemi said despite the health crisis police will still be on the beat tackling any issues that may arise. She added that there had been strategies put in place to protect any officers on the "frontline" who will be enforcing breaches of public health orders. "The safety of my police remains one of my highest priorities, there is no doubt about that," Superintendent Endemi said. "We have a number of strategies we have put in place to ensure their safety ... they include the use of personal protection equipment." Superintendent Endemi said it was "unfathomable" that people disobey the orders and advice in regards to self-isolation and social distancing. She added in some cases there has been an "education issue" and they have worked with individuals to ensure that there are no further offences. But, Superintendent Endemi said, there has been sufficient warning now. Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson reaffirmed Superintendent Endemi's message. "If you break the law, you will be fined, and you will be hauled before the courts," he said. "This is a very clear message that people do need to the right thing. "They need to adhere to the restricted movements that have been placed on absolutely everyone - they are in place for a reason." Mr Anderson said if resident's don't play their part in flattening the curve of the pandemic, "tougher measures will be put in place". He added that the NSW Government alluded to such a move, but Mr Anderson said there is not a definition of the next stage as of yet. "I can assure you it will be something that this city, this state and the nation has never been in front of before," Mr Anderson said. As part of the NSW Police Force's commitment to the safety of the NSW community, Crime Stoppers now has a reporting option to take information from the public about anyone not complying with Public Health Orders. Report online at www.nsw.crimestoppers.com.au or call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.