Policing the "ring of steel" between metropolitan and regional Victoria has been beefed up with Melbourne residents to be slapped with a $4957 fine if found to be illegally escaping the city limits.
Victorian Police has vowed to toughen up checkpoints on the outskirts of Melbourne by pulling over every vehicle towing a caravan, camper trailer, boat or jet ski or carrying surf boards, fishing rods or swags.
Long delays at checkpoints will be an unfortunate by-product aimed at keeping regional Victoria virus-free, Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said yesterday.
Caravan parks will also be targeted during school holidays.
V/Line bus and train depots will also be monitored with the new fines coming into effect overnight.
Individual fines for breaching the state's COVID restrictions had been set at $1652, but they will not apply to those visiting intimate partners in regional areas.
"We don't want regional and rural communities put at risk," Deputy Commissioner Nugent said.
"We don't want the virus to spread again in these rural areas, we want to maintain the restrictions and continue to ease them.
"These are huge fines and if there is more than one person, if it is mum and dad, they will both get the fine.
"We've all got restriction fatigue, we want to see an end to the restrictions, but the only way we can do that is to limit the spread of the virus.
"There will be delays at these checkpoints and for that I am very sorry."
But Wangaratta's Pastor David Maxwell said he expected tougher policing on a return trip from Melbourne for medical reasons.
"We thought we should have been stopped and checked, but we weren't and got waved through," he said.
"We would like to be assured people don't come into our area without proper checks."
Another Wangaratta resident, Daryl Beattie, also travelled back without being pulled over recently.
"I was shocked and dumbfounded that there was no one there," he said.
"We were following a caravan and they went straight through as well.
"There are so many roads out of Melbourne it is hard to see how they are going to close them all."
Melbourne residents are still permitted to travel into regional areas for approved work reasons and regional residents can travel via Melbourne to another regional area.
But a city stop-off is not encouraged.
Member for Benambra Bill Tilley said there was finally some "disincentive" to people trying to sneak out of Melbourne.
"This supposed ring around the city has been leaking people for months and I've heard way too many stories about people escaping Melbourne and coming up here," he said.
"The NSW government had heard them too and I know that contributed to their reluctance to relax the border bubble sooner.
"Just because you get cabin fever in Melbourne is no reason to put us at risk.
"We want Melburnians to come to the North East, but just not right now."