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

14 December 2020

This resource explains the basis for, and extent of, the restrictions relating to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) in South Australia as at 14 December 2020. 

On 16 March 2020, the Chief Executive of the South Australian Department of Health and Wellbeing made a declared a Public Health Emergency as a result of COVID-19. On 22 March 2020, the State Coordinator declared a Major Emergency as a result of COVID-19. The Major Emergency has been extended multiple times, and the latest extension ends on 9 January 2021.[1]

  Not in South Australia?

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


What is a Major Emergency?

A Major Emergency declaration gives the State Co-ordinator (and Authorised Officers) broad powers under the Emergency Management Act 2004 (SA) (the Act) to manage and co-ordinate the response to, and recovery from, the outbreak of COVID-19 within South Australia.[2]

The current State Co-ordinator is Grant Stevens, the Commissioner of Police.

Emergency Powers under the Act

During this Major Emergency, Authorised Officers have broad powers to do whatever is necessary to address the outbreak of COVID-19 within South Australia (Emergency Powers).[3]

These Emergency Powers allow the State Co-ordinator and Authorised Officers to:[4]

  • enter and, if necessary, break into any land, building, structure or vehicle (using such force as is necessary);
  • take possession of, protect or assume control over any land, body of water, building, structure, vehicle or other thing;
  • direct or prohibit the movement of people, animals or vehicles;
  • direct a person to remain isolated or segregated from other people or to take other measures to prevent the transmission of a disease or condition to other people;
  • direct a person to undergo medical observation, examination or treatment;
  • require any person to give information;
  • direct any person to assist in exercising any power related to the Major Emergency; and
  • do anything else necessary to address the outbreak of COVID-19 within South Australia.

Who can use the Emergency Powers during the Major Emergency?

Only Authorised Officers appointed by the State Co-ordinator may exercise the Emergency Powers.[5]

The State Co-ordinator’s appointment of an Authorised Officers is not published, but those appointed (who are not police officers) must hold an identity card with their name, photo and states they are an Authorised Officer.

The South Australian Police Commissioner in his role as State Co-ordinator appears to have appointed all South Australia Police officers as Authorised Officers, allowing them exercise the Emergency Powers.[6]

But note, police officers in uniform do not have to show their credentials before exercising Emergency Powers.[7] Police officers not in uniform must display their certificate of authority, if requested, before exercising Emergency Powers.[8] Non-police Authorised Officers must display the identity card, if requested, before exercising Emergency Powers.[9]

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

The Emergency Powers currently:

For further information about these directions, see the above-linked South Australian Government web pages.

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 under the Emergency Powers, without a reasonable excuse, could cause a fine of up to $20,000 for individuals and $75,000 for businesses.[18]

If you receive a fine, you should 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


This resource is accurate as at 14 December 2020. Review the South Australian Government’s COVID-19 website for the most up to date information.


This is a South Australian resource.

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