The rapid spread of the coronavirus resulted in the lockdown of many countries. Now, Australia joins the rest of the world as New South Wales implements the coronavirus lockdown; however, there are a lot of concerns regarding the new lockdown order. Each citizen must be well-informed and prepared during these difficult times. There are issues of police power abuse during random breath testings or sometimes misuse of their authorities regarding the coronavirus lockdown. Sydney lawyers have been receiving questions about cases wherein people feel like their rights have been violated in the guise of enforcement of the law.
This ongoing coronavirus pandemic is an unpredictable event that changed many things in the world. A few months ago, things were normal, but now everything is closing down, and people are encouraged or, in certain areas, required to stay at home for their safety. Due to the extreme measures, the Government enforced to combat the spread of the virus; some people wonder if the Government has the power to implement the lockdown.
The Government Authority and the Coronavirus Lockdown
Here are some FAQs and concerns regarding the implementation of the coronavirus lockdown and the Government:
Is the Legal Authority of the Government Enough to Enforce the Coronavirus Lockdown?
Yes, the Government has enough legal authority to implement the coronavirus lockdown. The lockdown is an extreme measure, although it is an unprecedented use of the Government’s power, it is an existing legal power from Section 7 of The Public Health Act 2010 (NSW). According to this Act, the Government can use these powers only if there are reasonable grounds that a situation is possibly or definitely a risk to public health.
Considering how fast the coronavirus can spread and the fact that there is no cure or vaccine available for the virus, it is clear that the coronavirus pandemic is a risk to public health. Therefore, the Government can legally use its powers under Section 7.
What Kind of Powers Does Section 7 of The Public Health Act 2010 Provide to the Government?
The Public Health Act 2010 (Section 7) allows the Government to take any action that is necessary to deal with the public health risk, which in this case is the coronavirus– this is a broad description that may raise concerns and worries from the citizens.
When Was the Lockdown Implemented?
The Minister for Health and Medical Research used his power under Section 7 to implement the stage 3 coronavirus lockdown order on 30-March 2020.
How Long Will the Coronavirus Lockdown Last?
The lockdown order will only last for 90 days which is until 28-June 2020– unless the Government extends its implementation. Since the coronavirus still does not have a cure or a vaccine and cases are still rising, the extension of the lockdown is expected.
Sydney Lawyers Explain Reasonable Excuses to Leave Your Home
Understanding the rules and restrictions of the lockdown can help you stay out of trouble. It is also essential for you to understand what your rights are during these difficult times. The coronavirus lockdown order states that everyone should stay home unless they have a reasonable excuse for going out.
Can the Police Decide Whether an Excuse is Reasonable or Not?
No, deciding these things is not the responsibility of the NSW Police. Interpreting the law is also not one of the functions of the police force. However, ever since the implementation of the lockdown, there have been more cases in which the NSW Police takes matters into their own hands.. If the police violate your rights or unlawfully fine you, then you should get in touch with a Sydney lawyer and check your options.
Activities in Public Places
The lockdown bans social gatherings in a public place with more than two people. Some exemptions to this rule are stated in the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020.
Here are some common questions about the restrictions and exemption:
What is Considered as a Public Place?
A public place is any place that is open to the public. Regardless of whether it is on water or land for as long as it is used by the public– then it is considered as a public space. It also does not matter if payment is required for accessing the public space, although schools are an exemption as they are not considered as a public space.
What are the Exemptions for Gathering with More Than Two People During the Lockdown?
The gathering is exempted from the rule if:
- it is a work-related gathering
- people are from the same household
- it is a wedding with a maximum of five people including the person conducting the service
- it is a funeral service with a maximum of 10 people including the person doing the service
- you are facilitating a move to a new residence
- you and your group are assisting or caring for a vulnerable person
- you and your group are providing emergency assistance
- it is a requirement for fulfilling a legal obligation
The Police Power During the Coronavirus Lockdown
As mentioned previously, there are ongoing concerns about possible misuse of police power. Staying informed of their authority and your rights can help protect you from experiencing oppression from the people who are meant to protect you. Here are some things you need to understand about police power during the lockdown:
Can the Police Stop You to Ask You Why You Are Outside Your Home During Lockdown?
The NSW Police are not provided with a general power to allow them to stop anyone to question or interrogate you. The only questions that the police have the authority to ask are questions in relation to your name and address. You do not need to answer anything else.
Are You Legally Obligated to Give the Police a Reason for Going Out Your House?
As discussed above, you only need to answer questions related to your name and address. You are not legally required to give the police a reason for going out of your house.
Does the NSW Police Have the Authority to Issue You a Move-on Direction?
No. Unless you are intoxicated or if you pose a threat to the public, then they can’t issue you a move-on direction.
Can You be Arrested for Breaching the Coronavirus Lockdown Order?
The NSW police have the power to arrest you if you breach the lockdown order.
Our Sydney lawyers explained the police power during the lockdown in another article.
The Consequences of Breaching the Lockdown Order
The police have the authority to arrest you if you violate the lockdown order, but there are other consequences you need to be concerned about if you breach the lockdown regulations.
Is There a Penalty for Violating the Lockdown Order?
Yes, the maximum penalty of breaching the lockdown regulation is a fine of $11,000 or 6 months imprisonment.
According to Section 118 of the Public Health Act (2010) NSW, the police can issue a maximum of $1000 on-the-spot fines instead of a court attendance notice. Continuing offences will result in additional fines.
Is it Possible to Appeal the Fine Issued to You by the Police for Violation of the Lockdown Order?
Yes, you can contest the fine issued to you by the police. You can get a Sydney lawyer to help you with your case if you have been issued a fine incorrectly or harshly. You can also ask for consideration to lower your fine if you are going through financial difficulties.
Common Questions About the Coronavirus Restrictions
Some people are unsure if certain activities are prohibited under the coronavirus lockdown. The information below clarifies these uncertainties, but they are not equivalent to legal advice. Consult with a lawyer for your specific concern.
Here are some common questions regarding the coronavirus lockdown restrictions:
Is it okay for you to drive outside your local area for food?
Food is essential; therefore, it is considered as a reasonable excuse for going outside your house. Driving 10 to 30 minutes outside your local area is reasonable for picking up food from a restaurant. However, it is suspicious for you or for anyone to drive for more than 7 hours just to pick up food. Consider that when deciding on a restaurant.
How far can you go for exercise?
Exercise is another reasonable excuse for going out under the lockdown order. Much like with food, staying within your local area or driving 30 minutes to go to a track or route is reasonable. However, driving for 5 hours or more to “exercise” is suspicious.
Is it okay to shop for non-essential items too?
Although the lockdown Order focuses on the essentials, the regulations do not limit your options. If you happen to be shopping for essentials, getting some non-essential items is okay.
Is the 1.5-meter rule a requirement during the coronavirus lockdown?
The coronavirus lockdown order does not have a 1.5-meter rule; however, this government recommendation is highly advised during this unprecedented time.
Is it against the lockdown regulations to visit your partner?
This issue is one of the vaguest factors of the legislation. Mick Fuller, the New South Wales Police Commissioner, stated that visiting your partner may be considered as “care” under the lockdown order, which makes it a reasonable excuse. Again, interpreting the law is not a function that the police have. However, it is still valuable information to know that the police consider visiting your partner as a reasonable excuse.
Is it against the lockdown regulations to visit your parents?
If visiting your partner is considered as a reasonable excuse, then so is visiting your parents, especially if they are vulnerable or are in need of assistance.
Is it against lockdown regulations to visit your friends?
Your family is one thing, and your group of friends is another story. Due to the risk of coronavirus, meeting up with friends is not a good idea. In addition to that, there is a ban for gatherings with more than two people.
The coronavirus pandemic is a difficult time for the whole world. Extreme measures like lockdowns have to be implemented to help manage the spread of the virus. The strictness of the Government and the compliance of citizens are needed in these trying times. However, there is no excuse for police power abuse. Keeping yourself informed with the regulations of the lockdown will help deal with the “new normal” relatively easier.
Keep in mind that you have rights, and if you ever feel like you’ve been oppressed or if you are unlawfully given a fine– get in touch with a Sydney lawyer to see your options.