Premier said 800 of 3000 people breached self-isolation. Only handful of those were fined.

Fewer than 50 people have been fined for breaching self-isolation rules despite the state government using the purportedly high number of rule-breakers to justify heftier infringements.

Victoria Police say the overwhelming majority of Victorians have followed the public health orders and there were often legitimate excuses when someone did not answer a knock on the door from authorities.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent.Credit:Getty Images

Premier Daniel Andrews announced on August 4 that fines would increase from $1652 to $4957 in order to deter what he said was an alarmingly high proportion of people not staying at home when required to.

He said as he announced the higher penalty that 3000 doorknocks conducted by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and health officials found more than 800 people were not home. "This is an unacceptable number," Mr Andrews said then.

"If there was particularly selfish behaviour, like for instance going to work when you have 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."

Of the 42 fines, 26 people were issued the lesser fine before the more expensive fine was introduced on August 4 and the remaining 60 were fined after that date.

Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent, who is responsible for enforcement of public health directives, said most people who did not answer the door were not breaking rules by leaving home for non-essential purposes.

Most had either submitted an incorrect address – or isolating at a different address – or were outside for a permitted purpose like obtaining medical supplies, receiving medical attention, or fleeing a family violence incident.

"Some of them were in the shower when we knocked on the door, some of them were in the shed out the back building something, so they're not all necessarily out of their home," he said.

"Our experience is the majority of people are doing the right thing, and that is from all of our engagement.

"There's certainly a lot of people doing the wrong thing – we average about 2000 fines a day, that's a lot of people … But in terms of the whole of the community, the whole of the state, it's a small component."

Since April, police have been given the details of 30,000 Victorian residents who are either COVID-positive or close contacts who were required to isolate.

Mr Nugent said COVID-positive people and their close contacts received a visit from defence force personnel and authorised officers. If they did not answer the door, they were referred to police. Police then used geolocation mobile tracking to determine if the person was at the given address; if they were not, police would go to the home.

He said since the weekend, 98 out of 444 referrals for people not self-isolating were still under investigation.

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