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Ashton says rethink of conjugal visit ban saved cops ‘a lot of hassle’


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Mr Ashton said the police assistance line has been getting thousands of calls a day from people seeking to clarify the strict rules around isolation and social distancing.

On Wednesday they had an even higher volume of calls from members of the public concerned they could not see their significant other if they don’t live in the same household.

“Fortunately that was clarified … that wasn’t the intent of [Dr Sutton] and he clarified that, and that was good, it saved us a lot of hassle,” he said.

More than 10 Victorians were fined in the past day for breaching stage 3 coronavirus restrictions, as well as a Geelong brothel which was so busy on Wednesday it caused a local traffic jam.

A group of people who were intoxicated and drinking on the street were fined, as were several people who were driving around in a car looking to buy drugs.

Another person, who was at a gathering at a home where they do not live, was also fined.

When asked about the relaxation of the rules for partners on Thursday morning, Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said police were just referring to the guidelines and restrictions health authorities have put in place.

“What we will do at the moment, is we will adhere to the guidelines we have got, we use discretion where there is a grey area if you like,” he said.

“But I will reiterate to everyone, it’s not about trying to find loopholes in this, it’s about doing the right thing by the community, by your friends and by your family.”

On Wednesday night, Mr Sutton acknowledged it was “pretty damned obvious in retrospect” that couples shouldn’t be banned from visiting one another.

Hours earlier, the Andrews government had warned partners who lived separately not to visit each other under the tough new “stay-at-home” rules or face $1600 fines.

But Dr Sutton said it was never his intention to stop couples from seeing one another.

“We have no desire to penalise individuals who are staying with or meeting their partners if they don’t usually reside together. We’ll be making an exemption,” he announced on Twitter at 5pm.

Speaking on ABC’s Radio National, he said policy was moving rapidly and had unintended consequences.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Health Minister Jenny Mikakos on Wednesday.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Health Minister Jenny Mikakos on Wednesday.Credit:AAP

“I think it’s an issue of trying to work this out in a really rapid time, we’re seeing things change every day in terms of this epidemic. We’re implementing policy and legal directions that have never been done in this country previously.

“Once it’s written down [in law] and gets put out there, people come back with things that seem pretty damned obvious in retrospect.”

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Police Minister Lisa Neville welcomed the “common sense” news on Wednesday, adding Victoria Police was unclear on how to enforce the rule.

“This is good outcome for the community. Thank you.”

The stay-at-home rules came in this week as part of the state’s stage 3 response to contain the coronavirus – which ban non-essential gatherings of more than two people.

You can still meet one person and go for a walk, for example, but you must stay 1.5 metres apart.

Shopping for necessities, medical care, exercise outside, or attending work or school if you cannot attend remotely are allowed.

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