Two paramedics stopped for a meal at an Australian KFC restaurant in the suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, early Friday morning when they noticed something suspicious.
A pair of customers had ordered roughly 20 takeout meals at 1:30 a.m.
The substantial order raised eyebrows because large parts of Victoria are currently back in lockdown following a sudden dramatic surge in coronavirus cases in the last few days. The state’s second lockdown will last six weeks, with large gatherings strictly banned and people allowed out of their homes for essential reasons.
The ambulance workers, or “ambos” as Australians call them, grew suspicious so they spoke with the KFC staff.
They then alerted police to the license plate of the customers’ car, and officers followed the vehicle to an address in the suburb of Dandenong.
At a house, they found two people asleep in a front room — but 16 more who had been celebrating a birthday party were hiding out at the back.
The takeout chicken had been ordered to feed the hungry guests.
“That is absolutely ridiculous, that type of behavior,” Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Shane Patton told reporters at a press conference Friday.
All the 16 partygoers were issued fines — a total of $26,000 AUD, or almost $18,000 USD.
“It’s a very expensive night,” Patton said.
“That’s a heck of a birthday party to recall,” he added, “and they’ll remember that one for a long time.”
Like New Zealand, Australia had seen a relatively small number of coronavirus cases during the pandemic, but in the last week infections have suddenly spiked, mostly in Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city.
Residents are now being urged by the state’s leader, Premier Daniel Andrews, to wear masks in public as Victoria recorded its largest daily increase in coronavirus cases on Friday, with 288 COVID-19 infections being diagnosed in 24 hours.
Commissioner Patton said the birthday partygoers were not the only ones to be fined overnight.
Four sex workers were fined at a brothel that was still receiving customers, as were a couple who tried twice to reach their holiday house via a car against orders to remain at their primary place of residence.
“This type of conduct, this type of blatant, obvious, deliberate disregard for the chief health officer’s guidelines, we will be enforcing,” said Patton.