(Image: AAP/Daniel Pockett)

We’re all COVID cops now. And my, aren’t some of us just relishing the role?

I’ll be the first to admit the virus has brought out my inner school prefect. I’m monitoring everything from social-distance scoffs to restaurant over-crowders and all manner of pandemic offenders.

To be honest I was at it from the outset but now I have official sanction thanks to some idiots in Melbourne and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who stated this week she would “throw the book at offenders” and added “if we don’t find them ourselves, we expect members of the community to let us know or staff members for that matter”.

On the case already, premier.

Not old-fashioned dobbing mind. There is still something un-Australian about that. (Except for the hugely popular Australian Tax Office anonymous tip-off line which is really just a necessary therapy session for angry ex-wives).

Though in poor Victoria, COVID-19 lines are now averaging 1000 calls a day, with offenders ordering large numbers of pizza proving popular with dobbers.

But to me there’s nothing like policing on the actual beat.

Starting from the first lockdown I would walk up to groups of youths and simply remind them: “social distancing?”

It escalated when some of the small local shops began sporting large sandwich boards in the doorway limiting customer numbers to two at a time.

After dutifully waiting in line one time some bloke barrelled in after me and when questioned, claimed he had indeed seen the sign.

“So which is it — you can’t read or can’t count?” I asked to a stream of invective as he begrudgingly departed. 

Emboldened I moved on to restaurants. On one occasion I pointed to my watch when a table of Kardashian lookalikes ordered yet another bottle of champagne at 5.30 while I waited for my assigned slot.

“It’s my 30th birthday” one said as if that justified staying over her two hour limit. When I pointed out the strict rules on timing to allow for cleaning she claimed to have no knowledge of any of it. Even the coronavirus itself, apparently. 

Supermarkets are proving difficult to police in this latest panic. Why do people insist on ignoring those carefully placed dots on the ground and coming right up into your space and then getting huffy when reminded?

Then there was the woman last week who brazenly stood at the magazine stand (there are still some titles left in this country) and slowly read cover to cover before placing it back in the rack.

“You. Are. Kidding. Me” I exploded, explaining that it was rude, even before a health crisis, to read a magazine and not buy it given the current dire state of the industry. In a pandemic it was positively dangerous.

When she failed to see the gravity of her crime I pointed out that pawing every single page and then leaving her germs for the next person was exactly what spread the disease. She sauntered off with the parting words “what are you a coronavirus cop or something?”

She said it like it was an insult.

Have you noticed people breaking social distancing rules, and if so have you called them out? Let us know your thoughts by writing to [email protected]. Please include your full name to be considered for publication in Crikey’s Your Say section.

Peter Fray

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