*This article has been written in accordance with the restrictions and laws in place as at 26 March 2020.
In these unprecedented times, we find ourselves overwhelmed with information on the new penalties surrounding the Coronavirus/COVID-19 and the Governments’ new self-isolation measures. Federal and State governments, news outlets, friends and family, have all tried their best to keep us informed.
But what do these new penalties mean for Victorians?
On Wednesday 25 March 2020, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews backed the further closures and crackdown on social functions by the Federal Government. Victoria Police have set up a taskforce of 500 officers to undertake spot checks on people who have been told to self-isolate, and issue penalty notices to those who are found to be non-compliant.
You may be asking “haven’t we all been told to self-isolate?” and whilst this may be the case, there are certain situations that fall within the scope of these new penalties, those who need to be mindful are:
- Those who have recently returned from overseas (14-day mandatory self-isolation)
- Those who have come into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19,
- Businesses who have been told they must shut down in line with the Government’s Stage Two restrictions recently imposed, and
- Those who fail to abide by the restrictions imposed on social gatherings.
On a State level, individuals face fines of up to $25,000 and businesses could be forced to pay up to $100,000 for breaching restrictions.
Federal powers under the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cth) (“the Act”) mean that people could face a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment or up to $63,000 for disobeying directions of the Health Minister, in light of COVID-19 being declared a ‘human biosecurity emergency’ earlier this month. This power is in place for at least three months and could be extended. Directions under sections 477, 478 & 60 of the Act can include regulating the movement of persons and closing of premises. A ‘human biosecurity control order’ can be imposed on individuals who are suspected of having a ‘listed human disease’ such as COVID-19. Disobeying any of these orders is an offence under the Act and an indictable (serious) offence.
For now, the best advice would be to follow all directions by government bodies, these restrictions will hopefully not be in place for long and will assist in curbing the spread of coronavirus. Some of the measures introduced are certainly out of the ordinary, and there are bound to be grey areas in their application. So, when in doubt, seek advice.
If you have been issued with a penalty notice or charged with an offence in relation to any of the above, you may have defences available to you. Please contact our lawyers for a no-obligation initial consultation about your options moving forward. Whilst we are not taking in-person appointments, our office remains operational and has many other options available to speak with you. We are happy to accommodate the option with which you feel most comfortable.