The NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, has announced eye-watering fines for anyone who ignores a 14-day quarantine after entering the state from overseas. Those found to have breached quarantine could be fined as much as $11,000 or even face a custodial sentence of up to six months.
The order to self-isolate for two weeks if returning from abroad was announced on March 15, but the ramifications for anyone breaking the quarantine early had not previously been specified.
Hazzard also outlined the fines that could be slapped on any organisation ignoring the federal ban on gatherings of 500 people or more, with an initial fine of $55,000 followed by additional fines of $7000 for each day after that an event continues to run.
The minister also had some sobering news about the escalation of the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney, warning that a major increase in confirmed infections could be imminent. Some 37 new cases were confirmed over the weekend of March 14-15, bringing the total number of sick in the state to 171 since the outbreak began. A further 1,282 cases are still under investigation.
“It is starting to look as if there will be a fairly substantial, what we would understand to be an exponential increase in numbers over the next few weeks,” Hazzard said, adding, “I would remind the community of the importance of being with us in partnership in trying to minimise this virus, but also understand that the number of people being impacted in our community are still relatively small, compared to the total number of tests and the broader population.”