Up to 300 unarmed Defence personnel will begin assisting New South Wales Police with its COVID-19 compliance efforts across Sydney’s hotspots, from Monday.
NSW Police commissioner Mick Fuller on Friday said personnel would be paired up with police officers to ensure residents from eight local government areas of concern are staying home.
“We can double the amount of checks we do in a day by putting a police officer with a member of the Australian Defence Force,” Fuller told RN Breakfast on Friday morning.
“They don’t come with powers and they won’t be carrying firearms but what they do come with is an enormous amount of training, very disciplined, they understand the task, and they allow us to double our compliance checking within a couple of days.”
The commissioner noted that police would also be patrolling the streets to ensure people comply with COVID-19 restrictions.
Defence minister Peter Dutton has echoed Fuller’s remarks, telling the Today Show that ADF personnel would not have the same powers as police.
In a statement on Thursday night, Dutton confirmed that up to 300 Defence personnel would begin assisting NSW authorities after undertaking training.
“This afternoon Defence received a request from Emergency Management Australia on behalf of the NSW State Emergency Operations Centre to provide Australian Defence Force personnel to support the NSW Police with their response to the COVID-19 situation in Greater Sydney,” Dutton said.
“Defence members will commence deploying on Friday 30 July to undertake training over the weekend and commence working under the direction of NSW Police on Monday 2 August.”
Fuller made the request for assistance on Thursday afternoon, after the state recorded 239 new COVID-19 cases. Seventy of those cases were infectious in the community.
Police and emergency services minister David Elliott said the ADF would ‘add another line of defence’ to the state government’s compliance measures.
“The Army’s unique skills and training have combined many times with those of our police officers to serve the people of NSW in times of crisis, such as the floods and severe bushfires we’ve experienced in recent years,” Elliot said.
“This will be a functional, effective and dynamic team to fight this pandemic.”
There are around 250 ADF personnel currently supporting NSW authorities with quarantine compliance management at hotels and airports.
More than 13,000 ADF personnel have taken part in Operation COVID-19 Assist since the pandemic began. There are currently 1,385 ADF personnel supporting Operation COVID-19 Assist nationwide.
Meanwhile, NSW Police have been granted the power to shut down businesses, construction sites and public premises where there is a risk to public health, as part of a range of measures to enforce compliance with COVID-19 rules.
The penalty for not wearing a mask where required has also been increased from $200 to $500.
From today, residents of the eight Sydney hotspots — Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta — are also subject to tighter restrictions.
These residents must stay within 5kms of their home when exercising, participating in outdoor recreation and conducting singles bubble visits. The 5km limit also applies for shopping, unless the goods or services are not readily available in that area. Masks must also be worn when outdoors.
Fuller said police officers would perform an extra 1000 shifts throughout the next week in order to crack down on non-compliance.
“These officers will be out in force across the Greater Sydney footprint conducting high-visibility proactive patrols and compliance checks, and responding to all Crime Stoppers reports,” he said.
“The stronger powers and police presence are about getting us out of lockdown sooner.”