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

18 September 2020

This resource explains the basis for, and extent of, the Tasmanian restrictions related to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) as at 18 September 2020.

In Tasmania, two emergency declarations have been made in response to COVID-19:

  • the Director of Public Health declared a public health state of emergency on 17 March 2020 under the Public Health Act 1997 (Tas) (Public Health Act) (Public Health Emergency), which has been extended and ends on 22 November 2020;[1] and
  • Premier of the State of Tasmania declared a state of emergency on 19 March 2020 under the Emergency Management Act 2006 (Tas) (Emergency Management Act) (State of Emergency). The State of Emergency has been extended numerous times. The current extension will end on 26 October 2020.[2]

A Public Health Emergency can be extended indefinitely, while the threat to public health continues.[3] A State of Emergency can be extended for further 12 week periods.[4]

  Not in Tasmania?

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

FEDERAL | VIC | NSW | QLD | SA | ACT | NT | WA

  This resource is out of date 

Restrictions have changed and we’re working to update this resource. Check out the Tasmanian Government website for the latest on Tasmania’s rules. 

What is a Public Health Emergency and a State of Emergency?

A Public Health Emergency allows the Tasmanian Director of Public Health to make directions to quarantine or isolate people in any area and to generally manage a threat to public health. We will refer to these as Public Health Powers.

The State of Emergency declaration allows the State Controller to exercise special powers in the Emergency Management Act. We will refer to these as Emergency Powers.[5]

What are the Public Health Powers and Emergency Powers?

Emergency Powers under the Emergency Management Act

During the State of Emergency, the State Controller has broad powers to address the emergency. The Emergency Powers most relevant to the COVID-19 response include the power to:[6]

  • prohibit, direct, regulate or limit the movement of persons into, within or out of Tasmania, any area of Tasmania or any premises;
  • close public places and events or require the person for the time being in charge of the place or event to close it;
  • enter premises;
  • stop and enter vehicles;
  • inspect and seize things at premises or vehicles lawfully entered;
  • require any person to answer any question or to provide any document or other information required that is in the control of the person; and
  • require a person who owns or is apparently in charge of property, or who carries on or is in charge of a business, to take the actions relating to that property or business specified by the State Controller to minimise the possibility of aggravating an emergency.

Under the current State of Emergency, the State Controller can exercise the Special Emergency Powers.[7] These powers include the power to:[8]

  • direct that the resources of the State and any council or other person be made available for emergency management as specified in the direction;
  • require the owner (including a council) of, or the person for the time being in charge of, any resources to surrender the resources and place them under the control of any person involved in emergency management; and
  • take such other action as they consider appropriate for emergency management.

Public Health Powers under the Public Health Act

While a Public Health Emergency is in force, Tasmania’s Director of Public Health can take action or make directions to:[9]

  • manage a threat to public health or a likely threat to public health;
  • quarantine or isolate people in any area;
  • evacuate any people from any area;
  • prevent or permit access to any area; or
  • control the movement vehicles.

The Director can also direct:[10]

  • a person to undergo:
    • a clinical assessment specified in the direction; or
    • a clinical assessment, specified in the direction, conducted by a person, or a member of a class of persons, specified in the direction;
  • a person move to, or stay in, a specified area;
  • the seizure of any thing or substance;
  • the destruction of any thing or substance; and
  • any other action they consider appropriate.

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

All employees of Biosecurity Tasmania are able to exercise the Emergency Powers under the Emergency Management Act.[11]

Employees of Biosecurity Victoria may enter premises without notice where they enter in relation to COVID-19. In other circumstances, they must give reasonable notice of less than three days.[12]

Police may only exercise their Emergency Powers to ensure compliance with restrictions imposed using the Director of Public Health’s directions and directions made by the State Controller.[13]  The Director of Public Health can authorise other people or classes of people to carry out their directions.[14]

Police and others assisting to carry out the Director of Public Health’s directions may:[15]

  • enter (by reasonable force if necessary) any place it is reasonably necessary to do so to enable the direction to be carried out;
  • close any area, premises or vehicle, close any road to traffic; and
  • remove (by reasonable force) any person who fails to comply with the direction.

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

The Public Health Powers and Emergency Powers currently:

Visits to hospitals are also limited by a state-wide policy.

See above the linked Tasmanian Government’s explanations of these directions, but see our explanation of the COVID-19 diagnosis rules below.[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.

What if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?

The Director of Public Health has issued this direction under the Public Health Powers to prevent or permit access to any area and to manage the threat to public health.[26]

Any person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 must remain at, or travel directly to, a hospital for treatment or a place that is suitable for the person to stay in until they are is given a release from isolation.[27]

A person diagnosed with COVID-19 may only leave the place they are self-isolating to seek medical care or in an emergency.

To be released from isolation, a medical practitioner or person approved by the Director of Public Health must be satisfied the later of one of these two factors has been met:

  • it has been at least ten days since the person initially showed symptoms of COVID-19; or
  • at least three days have passed since the person stopped showing symptoms of COVID-19

For example, if a person first started showing symptoms a week ago, but has not had symptoms for four days, they would still need to wait for another three days until they could cease isolating.

If the person diagnosed is a healthcare worker, they must not return to work unless they are released from quarantine, and have met the CDNA National Guidelines for Public Health Units.

A person diagnosed with COVID-19 must not allow any other person to have close contact with them, unless that person is:

  • providing medical care or treatment;
  • diagnosed with COVID-19; or
  • there is an emergency.

Close contact means at least 15 minutes of face-to-face contact or being in the same room for at least two hours.

Penalties

Failing to comply with a direction issued under the Public Health Powers can result in a fine of up to $16,800 or six months’ imprisonment.[28]

A warrant may be issued if a person fails to comply with a direction given by the Director of Public Health.[29] Warrants may be issued for the apprehension of a person, authorising entry of any premises if Police officer believes the person subject to the warrant is on the premises, and authorising the detention, isolation or quarantine of the person until the person can be brought before the magistrate.[30]

Failing to comply with a direction issued under the Emergency Power can results in a penalty, specific to the offence.[31]

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 direction.

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

If you or your family are directed to do something using the Emergency Powers or Public Health 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 30 August 2020. You should review the Tasmanian Government website for the most up to date information.

Jurisdiction

This is a Tasmanian resource.

References

[1] Public Health Act 1997 (Tas) (Public Health Act) s 14; Dr Scott, Acting Director of Public Health, Public Health Emergency for Tasmania Declared, 17 March 2020; Public Health Act 1997 Section 15, Extension of Emergency Declaration, 6 June 2020; Public Health Act 1997 Section 15, Extension of Emergency Declaration, 28 August 2020.

[2] Emergency Management Act 2006 (Tas) (Emergency Management Act) s 42; Tasmanian Government Gazette No.21 953, Emergency Management Act 2006, Declaration of State of Emergency, 20 March 2020; Emergency Management Act 2006, Extension of Declaration of State of Emergency, 11 June 2020; Emergency Management Act 2006, Extension of Declaration of State of Emergency, 8 July 2020; Emergency Management Act 2006, Extension of Declaration of State of Emergency, 28 August 2020.

[3] Public Health Act s 14.

[4] Emergency Management Act s 42(3) and (4).

[5] Tasmanian Government Gazette No.21 953, Emergency Management Act 2006, Declaration of State of Emergency, 20 March 2020.

[6] Emergency Management Act sch 1.

[7] Emergency Management Act sch 2.

[8] Emergency Management Act sch 2.

[9] Public Health Act s 16(1).

[10] Public Health Act s 16(2).

[11] Tasmanian Government Gazette No.21 953, Emergency Management Act, Authorisation of Authorised Officers, 20 March 2020; Tasmanian Government Gazette No.21 954, Emergency Management Act 2006, Authorisation of Emergency Powers, 23 March 2020.

[12] Emergency Management Act, sch 1(3).

[13] Tasmanian Government Gazette No.21 954, Emergency Management Act 2006, Authorisation of Emergency Powers, 23 March 2020.

[14] Public Health Act, s 17(1) and (2).

[15] Public Health Act, s 17(3).

[16] Public Health Act s 16(1); Public Health Act 1997 Direction under section 16 (Management of premises – No 3), 17 September 2020.

[17] As above.

[18] Public Health Act 1997, Direction under section 16 (Workplace COVID Plan – No 1), 14 June 2020.

[19] Public Health Act 1997, Directions under Section 16 (Residential Aged care Facilities – No 9) 13 July 2020.

[20] Emergency Management Act Schedule 1, s 1(1)(b),(q),(t); Emergency Management Act 2006, Directions in Relation to Persons Arriving in Tasmania from Affected Regions and Premises, 18 September 2020; Public Health Act 1997, Direction under Section 16 (Assessment of persons from affected regions and premises – No 2), 20 August 2020.

[21] Emergency Management Act Schedule 1, s 1(1)(b),(q),(t); Emergency Management Act 2006, Directions in Relation to Persons Arriving in Tasmania (General), 18 September 2020

[22] Tasmanian Government Gazette No 21 967, Emergency Management Act 2006, Regulation of Aircraft Movement, 8 April 2020.

[23] Public Health Act 1997, Direction under Section 16 (Quarantine – No 1), 17 April 2020.

[24]Public Health Act 1997, Direction under section 16 (Isolation — No 2), 17 April 2020.

[25]Public hospital patient visitation, Tasmania Coronavirus.

[26] Public Health Act  s 16(3); Penalty Units and Other Penalties Act 1987 (TAS).

[27]As above.

[28] As above.

[29] Public Health Act s 16A.

[30] As above.

[31] See for example, Emergency Management Act s 37(8).

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