Shepparton police ‘fed up’ with locals disregarding social distancing rules

By Liz Mellino

Shepparton police are "beyond frustrated" with locals disregarding social distancing guidelines, with their concerns coming after a seventh case of COVID-19 was confirmed for Greater Shepparton yesterday.

Sergeant Darren Wagstaff said police conducting patrols on Friday and Saturday night were frustrated to see large groups of people congregating around town, with police having to break up a number of gatherings on both nights.

While Sgt Wagstaff said police were "fed up" with the actions of locals over the weekend, new laws introduced at midnight Monday night mean such people could now face large on-the-spot fines.

“We had issues with a number of gatherings around town — people just were't getting the COVID-19 message,” Sgt Wagstaff said.

“All the people we spoke to claimed ignorance ... we were fed up with it over the weekend.”

He said police were called to a car park in Shepparton's north on Friday night where more than 40 people were "hanging around".

After telling the group to move on he said police spent the next three hours working to disperse the group who continued moving to different locations around town.

“They weren't getting the message ... it was beyond frustrating, they did not care,” Sgt Wagstaff said.

The following evening Sgt Wagstaff said police were faced with a similar situation, with crews called to a supermarket car park following reports of a large group of people.

The group refused to leave after being asked by supermarket security with police then called due to a security guard receiving a "substantial amount of abuse" from the group.

“While they (the group) weren’t necessarily breaching the law they were placing themselves and their family members and friends at risk by exceeding the guidelines as far as social distancing,” Sgt Wagstaff said.

With Victoria entering Stage 3 restrictions at 12 am Tuesday, any gatherings across the state must now involve no more than two people — except for members of your immediate household and for work or education.

Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed anyone breaching these directions could face on-the-spot fines of $1652 for individuals and $9913 for businesses, with larger fines also able to be issued through the courts.

“Most Victorians are doing the right thing and I'm grateful to them but we continue to see instances of people gathering in significant numbers so we must do more,” Mr Andrews said.

“Where people can stay at home, they must stay at home.”

Victoria police are also working to stop the spread of coronavirus with Operation Sentinel launched last Tuesday.

The operation is enforcing bans on indoor and outdoor gatherings at non-essential venues and businesses to ensure coronavirus containment measures are being followed.

A total of 500 police are also conducting around the clock spot checks as part of the operation on people who have returned from overseas or tested positive to COVID-19 and should be in self-isolation.

Since March 21 police have conducted a total of 7010 spot checks, with 1225 of these occurring in the 24 hours leading up to 8 am yesterday.

A fine of $9913 was also issued to a Fitzroy licensed business on Monday afternoon for serving alcohol to patrons seated inside the restaurant on Saturday night.

“These restrictions need to be taken seriously and we cannot afford for people to be selfish — people who ignore this are placing others at significant risk,” a Victoria Police spokesperson said.