The Australian prime minister has warned that people refusing Covid-19 tests in Victoria, where the second wave of infections has led to the return of strict restrictions, could face significant fines.
On Tuesday, Daniel Andrews, the state premier, noted in a statement that “somehow, more than a thousand people, when asked, refused to be tested” before announcing the return to a lockdown on Covid-19 hotspots in Melbourne, the state capital.
The restrictions, which will see people ordered to stay home except for work, school, care duties or essential shopping, will affect more than 300,000 residents starting Wednesday night.
Scott Morrison, the prime minister, expressed his support for the Victorian government’s measures as 73 new cases were announced, the 15th consecutive day of double-digit growth in coronavirus cases in the state.
“Where outbreaks do occur you need to move on them as the Victorian government is and they have our full support with that," he told the Nine Network on Wednesday.
“We're doing this in an Australian way. We're looking to do it through incentive, through the use of carrot, not stick… But occasionally the stick will have to be put about, whether it's fines or other sanctions that are in place to ensure that we keep everybody safe.”
Mr Andrews has launched a judicial inquiry into the state’s hotel quarantine system after contract tracers found one outbreak was linked to hotel staff breaching regulations.
The premier has also asked Federal authorities to divert international flights from Melbourne and has requested support from the Australian military to assist in enforcing restrictions.
However, Mr Andrews rejected the idea of fining people for refusing tests because it would only be possible if police accompanied testing staff door to door.
“The only people who can enforce and apply fines or other penalties are in fact members of Victoria Police and if I'm going to have every single person who's testing accompanied by a member of Victoria Police, then this is going to present a whole lot of very practical problems," Mr Andrews told ABC Melbourne radio on Wednesday.
“The key point here is all we can do is urge people to get tested… You can make all manner of threats, but they won't necessarily change anybody's behaviour. It may well be people simply don't answer the door.”