How the Northern Territory Government’s Emergency Restrictions on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) work

30 November 2020

This resource explains the basis for, and extent of, the restrictions related to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) in the Northern Territory (NT) as at 30 November 2020.

On 18 March 2020 the Northern Territory Minister for Health declared a public health emergency for the NT arising out of the serious public health risk posed by COVID-19 (Emergency Declaration). The Emergency Declaration, which has been extended, ends on 23 December 2020.[1]

The Health Minister may extend the Emergency Declaration for any number of further 90-day periods.[2]

  Not in the Northern Territory?

This resource explains emergency powers in the Northern Territory. We also have resources for the following jurisdictions:


What is an Emergency Declaration?

The Emergency Declaration (and each subsequent extension) is declared under the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT) (the Act).[3]

An Emergency Declaration gives the NT Chief Health Officer broad powers to take any action and give any direction they consider necessary, appropriate or desirable to alleviate the public health risk to the NT community posed by COVID-19.[4]

Public Health Emergency Powers under the Act

While an Emergency Declaration is in force, the NT Chief Health Officer can take action and give directions:[5]

  • to reduce, remove or destroy the public health risk causing or threatening to cause the emergency;
  • to issue warnings in relation to the emergency;
  • to segregate or isolate persons in an area or at a particular place;
  • to evacuate persons from an area or a particular place;
  • to prevent persons accessing or entering into an area or a particular place; and
  • control the movement of vehicles within an area;[1] requiring person to undergo a general or specific medical examination;
  • requiring a person to remain in, or move to or from, a stated area or place, immediately or within a stated period;
  • that a thing to be seized or destroyed; and
  • requiring certain people to give information relating to the emergency.[7]

We will refer to the above actions and directions as the Public Health Emergency Powers.

Contravention of the Public Health Emergency Powers without a reasonable excuse could result in a fine.[8]

Who can use the Public Health Emergency Powers during the State of Emergency?

The NT Chief Health Officer can appoint Authorised Officers to help exercise the Public Health Emergency Powers.[9]

While the Emergency Declaration is in force, Authorised Officers may use force where it is necessary and reasonable to:[10]

  • enter any place to save a person’s life, rescue an injured or endangered person or prevent injury to a person;
  • prevent entry into, or close off, an area or place;
  • remove a person from an area or place;
  • search for and seize a thing; and
  • search for, examine, copy, remove and retain documents relating to the public health emergency, staying for as long as it takes to take notes or make copies of the documents.

An Authorised Officer taking action to assist the NT Chief Health Officer:[11]

  • may take the action at any time of the day;
  • does not have to give notice of their intention to take the action;
  • does not have to get consent from any person concerned or the owner or occupier of any area or place concerned; and
  • is not required to hold a warrant or another form of authorisation required under a law in force in the NT to:
    • enter and remain at any place (including Aboriginal land) concerned; or
    • search any person or place concerned.

Police officers exercising Public Health Emergency Powers

This direction is made under the Chief Health Officer’s power to direct an authorised officer to assist the Chief Health Officer in exercising the Chief Health Officer’s Public Health Emergency Powers.[12]

Under this direction every police officer who is an Authorised Officer must assist the Chief Health Officer in exercising the Public Health Emergency Powers.[13]

Police officers who are Authorised Officers  must assist with compliance with any directions made by the Chief Health Officer in relation to the Public Health Emergency.[14]

The directions are described in detail below. This includes:

  • closing a place;
  • directing a person to return to or remain in a place for self-quarantine;
  • escorting or taking a person to a place for self-quarantine; or
  • preventing entry to a place or exit from a place.

What restrictions are in place in response to COVID-19?

At the time of publication, the Public Health Emergency Powers have been used to:

See the linked NT Government explanations of these directions for further details.

If you are a community organisation, find out about how these restrictions impact your duties to employees and volunteers.

There are additional restrictions made through Federal Government powers. To understand those restrictions, see our Federal Government resource.


Refusing or failing to comply with a direction given under the Public Health Emergency Powers, without a reasonable excuse, could result in a fine of up to $62,800.[22]

What to do if you or your family receive directions under the Public Health Emergency Powers

If you or your family are directed to do something using the Public Health Emergency Powers, you can get legal advice through Justice Connect.

Apply for legal help

If you have a legal problem related to COVID-19, apply for free legal help from Justice Connect.

Apply now


This resource is accurate as at noon on 30 November 2020. You should review the Northern Territory Government website for the most up to date information.


This is a Northern Territory resource.


[1] Government Gazette No.S48 – Extension of Operation of Declaration of Public Health Emergency, dated 22 September 2020. 

[2] Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT) (the Act) s 50.

[3] The Act s 48.

[4] The Act s 52(1).

[5] As above.

[6] The Act s 52.

[7] The Act s 52(3).

[8] The Act s 56.

[9] The Act s 53.

[10] The Act s 53(2).

[11] The Act s 53(3).

[12] The Act s 53.

[13] The Act s 53(1); COVID-19 Directions (No.5) 2020 – Assistance of Police Officers, 22 March 2020.

[14] COVID-19 Directions (No.5) 2020, Assistance of Police Officers, 22 March 2020, cl 2.

[15]  COVID-19 Directions (No. 56) 2020, Directions for Safety Measures at Reopened Places, Businesses, Activities, Services and Premises, 30 November 2020.

[16] COVID-19 Directions (No 57) 2020, Directions for Major Public Events, 30 November 2020.

[17] COVID-19 Directions (No 40) 2020 Directions for Aged Care Facilities, 24 June 2020.

[18] COVID-19 Directions (No. 49) 2020 as amended by COVID-19 Directions (No. 50), (No. 53) and (No 54), – Directions for Territory Border Restrictions, 24 August 2020; COVID-19 Directions (No. 55) 2020 – Directions for Quarantine Facilities, 12 November 2020; COVID-19 Directions (No. 50) 2020 – Directions for Freight Workers, 28 August 2020; COVID-19 Directions (No. 51) 2020 – Maritime Crew, 28 August 2020. 

[19] COVID-19 Directions (No. 49) 2020 as amended by COVID-19 Directions (No. 50) – Directions for Territory Border Restrictions, 24 August 2020.

[20] COVID-19 Directions (No 7) 2020, Directions for Infected Persons, 28 March 2020. 

[21] COVID-19 Directions (No 21) 2020, Directions for Potentially Infected Persons, 16 April 2020.

[22] The Act s 56, Penalty Units Act 2009 (NT).

Was this page helpful?
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.