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

3 November 2020

This resource explains the basis for, and extent of, the COVID-19-related restrictions in Queensland as at 3 November 2020.

On 29 January 2020, the Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services made an order declaring a Public Health Emergency due to COVID-19 under the Public Health Act 2005 (QLD) (the Act). This Public Health Emergency has been extended to respond to COVID-19 and ends on 31 December 2020.[1]

Further Public Health Emergency declarations may be made for further periods of 90 days if the public health risk continues.[2]

  Not in Queensland?

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

FEDERAL | VIC | NSWSA | ACT | NT | TAS | WA

What is a Public Health Emergency?

A Public Health Emergency declaration gives the Queensland Chief Health Officer broad powers to assist in containing or responding to the spread of COVID-19 in the community by:[3]

  • restricting people’s movement;
  • preventing people from entering certain premises;
  • requiring people to stay at certain premises;
  • requiring certain premises to open, close or limit access;
  • restricting contact between people; and
  • providing any other directions the Queensland Chief Health Officer thinks are necessary to protect public health.

The Public Health Emergency declaration allows the Queensland Government to use new powers added to the Act to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.[4]

Emergency Powers and Public Health under the Act

During the Public Health Emergency, Emergency Officers have broad powers to do whatever is necessary to assist in containing or to responding to the spread of COVID-19 within the community (Emergency and Public Health Powers).[5]  These powers are extensive.

They include the power to:[6]

  • direct a person to stay at a stated pace for 14 days (and comply with conditions);
  • direct the owner or operator of a facility to open, close or limit access to that facility;
  • enter places (without a warrant);
  • make a person leave a place;
  • require a person to answer questions;
  • require a person to give the emergency officer reasonable help to exercise their powers; and
  • give any other direction reasonably necessary to assist in containing, or responding to, the spread of COVID-19 within the community.

Emergency Officers who are medical doctors have additional powers.[7] These include the power to:

  • detain people who pose a public health risk; and
  • establish an isolation area, in which people who pose a public health risk can be detained.

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

Only Emergency Officers appointed by the Chief Executive may exercise the Emergency and Public Health Powers.[8] Public servants, health service employees, local government employees and SES members can all be appointed as Emergency Officers — as can anyone specified by the Chief Executive.[9]

Emergency Officers must:

  • produce their identity card before exercising a power under the Act, unless it is impractical to do so;[10]
  • if seeking to enter a property, try to seek consent and give the occupier time to allow them entry before using force to gain entry;[11] and
  • if detaining someone, issue them with a notice in writing explaining their detention, unless it is impractical to do so.[12]

Refusing or failing to comply with a direction given under the Emergency and Public Health Powers, without a reasonable excuse, could cause a fine.[13]

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

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

See the linked Queensland Government’s explanations of these directions for further details.

These directions have all been made under the Queensland Chief Health Officer’s power to give directs to assist in containing, or to respond to, the spread of COVID-19 within the community.[25]

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.

Penalties

Refusing or failing to comply with a direction under the Emergency and Public Health Powers, without a reasonable excuse, could result in a fine of around $13,345.[26]

If you receive a fine, you may choose to seek legal advice. You may have a defence if there was a reasonable reason for you being unable to follow the instruction.

What to do if you or your family receive directions under the Emergency Powers
If you or your family are directed to do something using the 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

Accuracy

This resource is accurate as at 3 November 2020. You should review the Queensland Government’s COVID-19 website for the most up to date information.

Jurisdiction

This is a Queensland resource.

References

[1] Public Health (Further Extension of Declared Public Health Emergency – COVID-19) Regulation (No. 3) 2020, made under the Public Health Act 2005 (Qld) (the Act) s 320, 323(1).

[2] The Act s 323.

[3] The Act s 362B(2).

[4] The Act Part 7A

[5] The Act Chapter 8, Part 7, Division 6; Chapter 8, Part 7A.

[6] A full list can be found in the Act, Chapter 8, Part 6, see particularly s 345(1).

[7] The Act Chapter 8, Part 7.

[8] The Act, Chapter 8, Part 6, 7 & 7A.

[9] The Act s 333.

[10] The Act s 342. (N.B. That if the Emergency Officer is a police officer in uniform, they must instead state their name, rank and station before exercising a power under the Act, unless it is impractical to do so.)

[11] The Act s 344.

[12] The Act s 351.

[13] The Act ss 346 and 362J.

[14] Movement and Gathering Direction (No 5), 16 October 2020.

[15] Restrictions on Businesses, Activities and Undertakings Direction (No 8), 16 October 2020; Seasonal Workers Health Management and International Quarantine Plans Direction (No 2), 3 November 2020.

[16] School and Early Childhood Service Exclusion Direction, 29 March 2020.

[17] Border Restrictions Direction (No 17), 3 November 2020. 

[18] Self-quarantine for persons arriving in Queensland from Overseas Direction (No 6), 26 October 2020; Border Restrictions Direction (No 12), 19 August 2020.

[19] Restricting Cruise Ships from Entering Queensland Waters (No 2), 11 June 2020.

[20] Self-isolation for Diagnosed Cases of COVID-19 Direction (No 4), 26 October 2020.

[21] Aged Care Direction (No 13), 3 November 2020.

[22] Hospital Visitors Directions (No 7), 3 November 2020.

[23] Corrective Facilities Direction (No 2), 19 May 2020.

[24] Disability Accommodation Services Direction (No 5), 3 November 2020.

[25] The Act s 362B.

[26] The Act ss 236 and 262D

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