New public health orders in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania will allow courts to jail Australians who leave home without a reasonable excuse including those who attempt to head to their holiday house to ‘self-isolate’.
Authorities will be watching for people disobeying the limit on gatherings and anyone outside without a valid reason, with police in Western Australia confirming they will even use drones to identify people flouting the rules.
In some states, offenders could cop fines of up to $11,000 if they ignore the social distancing laws which have been put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.
- Confused? Read this: TND explains the new rules
Businesses that have already been ordered to shutdown – including nail salons, tattoo parlours and brothels – could be slapped with fines of up to $55,000 if police catch them trading during the lockdown.
In NSW, the new laws will also empower the NSW Premier to shut down retailers that currently remain open in the state. That could mean the premier could force Bunnings, Target, KMart, and Officeworks to close their doors.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is understood to be closing more retailers, despite promising signs that the growth rate of COVID-19 cases is slowing.
The new rules threaten stiffer penalties than those that have applied in virus hotspots including Italy.
Signed at 10.20pm on Monday, the NSW orders direct that a person must not, without reasonable excuse, leave the person’s place of residence.
The new orders expressly prohibit citizens ‘self-isolating’ at beach holiday homes: “Taking a holiday in a regional area is not a reasonable excuse.”
Acceptable reasons to leave home include buying food or other essentials, travelling for work or education, exercise and medical reasons or caring for others.
Caring responsibilities can include a trip to the vet for pets or travelling for the purposes of attending childcare.
People can still go out to exercise and they may attend a wedding (five people including the celebrant) or a funeral (10 people) subject to strict size limits. Moving home, donating blood, and accessing welfare, domestic violence or mental health services are all permitted.
For divorced parents, children who do not live in the same household as their parents or siblings or one of their parents or siblings can continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children or siblings.
Priests, ministers of religion or member of a religious order can also attend places of worship or travel to provide pastoral care to another person.
As previously flagged by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday night, the provisions prohibit anyone participating in a gathering in a public place of more than 2 people.
Exceptions include—(a) gatherings of members of the same household, and (b) gatherings essential for work or education.
Those that fail to comply with the order could face up to 6 months in jail or a fine of up to $11,000 or both plus a further $5500 fine each day the offence continues.
Businesses that fail to comply with a direction are liable to a fine of $55,000 and $27,500 each day the offence continues.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, whose own department presided over the Ruby Princess cruise debacle where multiple passengers with the virus disembarked in Sydney this month, signed the new orders at 10:20 pm on Monday night.
10.20pm I just signed new restrictions on leaving residences. Public Health(Covid19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020. Message- STAY HOME unless you need to go out for essential reasons such as work, study, obtaining food,medical supplies etc @NSWHealth pic.twitter.com/dsVP1IrWAo
— Brad Hazzard (@BradHazzard) March 30, 2020
That means the tough new laws came into effect at midnight when few citizens would have seen the new provisions.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews defended the new laws in his own state, warning that the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 could overwhelm hospitals.
“If we allow our health system to be overrun, then people will die. That is just a price that is just not worth paying. No gathering with friends is worth someone’s life,” he said.