The new 500-officer enforcement squad, dubbed Operation Sentinel, will crack down on people who continually breach or have a blatant disregard for bans on gatherings, or self-isolation orders.
People breaching self-isolation rules face fines up to $20,000 for individuals, or $100,000 for businesses.
No one has been fined yet, with Mr Nugent saying police had found a “degree of ignorance” when speaking to people who had breached the restrictions.
“What we have found doing these spot checks is that people are admitting they’re not staying in quarantine. They’ve been visiting the movies or going out for breakfast or other meals,” Mr Nugent said.
“The commentary has been ‘look I’ve been home for the most part … I just popped out to get breakfast the other day to get a break from it’. When you explain they can’t do it at all, they’re quite apologetic.
“But absolutely, where there is blatant disregard for the restrictions and multiple breaches, we will be taking action.”
Mr Nugent believes people will get the message.
“We have had good feedback from people, who have said ‘I’m glad you knocked on my door, it gives me some confidence … I’m quarantining and want to make sure others are’,” he said.
Roaming police patrols will ensure people are adhering to mass-gathering restrictions and officers will also use FaceTime to check on people who should be self-isolating.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said people must change their behaviour, stressing he is “uncomfortable” with the current rate of new COVID-19 cases in the state.
“At the moment it’s increasing by 50, 60 a day, we’re getting new record daily figures. I don’t want to see that. I want to see it stabilising and going down,” he said.
Modelling has shown that during the peak of the pandemic, which is expected in May or June, more than 100,000 Victorians a day could become infected with coronavirus, and thousands could die.
More than 100 retired nurses are currently training to rejoin the workforce within weeks, while retired paramedics have also signed up to return to the front line.
The state government is preparing for the worst-case scenario, which will overwhelm the health system, Mr Sutton said.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the state was “massively scaling up” its intensive care unit capacity.
She reiterated her warning that thousands of people in the state could die, urging people to follow isolation, social distancing and shutdown rules.
“We can reduce the number of lives lost if we all do the right thing,” she said.
Sumeyya is a state political reporter for The Age.