The High Court will hear a challenge against Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown laws as residents mark 200 days since the first state restrictions came into play.
Justice Virginia Bell will hold a fast-tracked directions hearing on Friday afternoon, just days after a challenge was filed on behalf of Mornington Peninsula hotelier Julian Gerner and his business Morgan’s Sorrento.
His barristers, top silks Bret Walker SC and Michael Wyles QC, pointed out in submissions pushing for an urgent hearing that Victorian residents have had movements restricted for months on end.
The stay at home directions have been in place since March 30, and those in metropolitan Melbourne are required to remain at home 22 hours a day unless they work in a permitted workplace.
“The present end date … is a total of 98 days since stage four restrictions were announced on 2 August 2002,” they said.
“Mr Gerner is suffering the ongoing effects on his mental health of having his movement restricted, which in his circumstances, amounts effectively to a state of confinement.”
In their submissions, they say his business won’t be able to trade at the beginning of its most profitable period, which will impact its viability and add to the mental health strain on Mr Gerner.
The submissions also note comments made by World Health Organisation Covid-19 special envoy David Nabarro about the use of lockdowns to control the virus.
“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it,” Dr Nabarro said in an interview.
The lawyers also hit out at the shifting end dates.
They said Victorians were first told restrictions would end on September 28, but that was later pushed back by the state to mid-October, and more recently by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton to November 8.
Justice Bell will hold the directions hearing on Friday afternoon.