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

14 September 2020

This resource explains the basis for, and extent of, the Victorian restrictions related to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) as at 14 September 2020.

On 16 March 2020, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a State of Emergency had been declared across Victoria to combat the spread of COVID-19.[1]

The Declaration of State of Emergency was extended again on 13 September, and ends at 11.59pm on 11 October 2020.[2] 

  Not in Victoria?

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

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

What is a State of Emergency?

A State of Emergency declaration gives the Victorian Chief Health Officer broad powers to act to eliminate or reduce a serious risk to public health by detaining people, restricting movement, preventing entry to premises, or providing any other directions considered reasonable to protect public health, slow the spread of infection, reduce the pressure on the heath system and minimise the risks of COVID-19.[3]

The State of Emergency was declared using never-before used powers under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) (the Act).[4] The powers may be used in conjunction with the Public Health Powers.

Under the Act, a State of Emergency may be extended for four week periods up to a maximum of 12 months  in response to COVID-19.[5]

Emergency & Public Health Powers under the Act

During a State of Emergency, the Chief Health Officer is given broad powers to do whatever is necessary to eliminate or reduce a serious risk to public health from COVID-19 (Emergency Powers).[6]

These Emergency Powers allow Authorised Officers to:

  • detain any person or group for as long as reasonably necessary to eliminate or reduce a serious risk to public health;
  • restrict the movement of any person within Victoria;
  • prevent any person or group from entering Victoria; and
  • give any other direction reasonably necessary to protect public health.

In addition to the Emergency Powers, the Victorian Chief Health Officer may allow Authorised Offices to exercise certain public health powers where it is necessary to investigate, eliminate or reduce a risk to public health from COVID-19 (Public Health Powers).[7]

The Public Health Powers are very broad, and allow Authorised Officers to do any of the following, if necessary to do so to eliminate or reduce the risk to public health:[8]

  • close any premises;
  • direct a person or group to enter, not to enter, to remain at, or to leave, any particular premises;
  • without a warrant, enter any premises and search for and seize any thing;
  • request information, including names and addresses;
  • inspect any premises;
  • require the cleaning or disinfection of any premises;
  • require the destruction or disposal of anything; or
  • direct the owner or occupier of any premises, or any other person, to take particular actions.

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

Only Authorised Officers appointed by the Victorian Chief Health Officer may exercise the Emergency Powers and the Public Health Powers:[9] Authorised Officers must:

  • produce their identity card before exercising a power under the Act, unless it is impractical to do so;[10]
  • if seeing to enter a property, produce their identify card for inspection;[11] and
  • before instructing you to do something, give you a warning that it is against the law not to not follow their instructions, unless it is not practicable to do so.[12]

The Act enables Authorised Officers to ask Victoria Police for assistance when exercising both the Public Health Powers and Emergency Powers.[13]

This has happened: Victoria Police has established a coronavirus enforcement squad to enforce gathering and stay at home restrictions.[14]

Refusing or failing to comply with a direction given under the Emergency Powers, without a reasonable excuse could result in a fine.[15]

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

The Emergency Powers are being used to limit the movement of people in greater Melbourne by directing people to:[16]

The Emergency Powers are also being used to limit the movement of people outside of metro Melbourne by directing people to:

See the linked Victorian 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.

Penalties

Refusing or failing to comply with the self-isolation direction for people diagnosed with COVID-19 and close contacts may result in a fine of $4,957.[40]  

Refusing or failing to comply with a direction given under the Emergency Powers and Public Health Powers, without a reasonable excuse, could result in a fine of up to $1,652 for individuals and $9,913 for businesses.[41]  

Failing to comply with the rules around face coverings may result in a fine of $200.[42] 

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 Act

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 14 September 2020. You should review the Victorian Government’s COVID-19 website for the most up to date information.

Jurisdiction

This is a Victorian resource.

References

[1] Victoria Government Gazette, Extension of Declaration of a State of Emergency, 12 April 2020.

[2] Extension of Declaration of A State of Emergency, 13 September 2020.

[3] Victoria Government Gazette, Declaration of a State of Emergency, 16 March 2020.

[4] The declaration was made under s 198 of the Act, which gives the Health Minister the power (on the advice of the Chief Health Officer and after consultation with the Minister and the Emergency Management Commissioner) to declare a State of Emergency arising out of “circumstances causing a serious risk to public health“.

[5] Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (State of Emergency and Other Matters) Bill, Exposure Draft.

[6] The Act ss 199 and 200(1).

[7] The Act s 189.

[8] The Act s 190(1).

[9] The Act ss 189 and 199.

[10] The Act s 166.

[11] The Act s 166(3) and (4).

[12] The Act ss 200(4) and 190(2).

[13] The Act ss 192 and 202.

[14] Premier of Victoria, Police Cracking Down On Deliberate Directive Breaches, 15 July 2020; Premier of Victoria, Police Out in Force Across Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, 8 July 2020.

[15] The Act ss 193 and 203.

[16] Area Directions (No 8), 13 September 2020.

[17] Stay at Home Directions (Restricted Areas) (No 15), 13 September 2020, cls 5 (1AB), (1AC) and cl 6.

[18] As above, cls 5(1AB), (1AE) and cl 9.

[19] As above, cls 5(1AC), (1AD) and (1AF), and cl 6.

[20] As above, cls 5(1AF) and cl 8; Restricted Activity (Restricted Areas) (No 9), 13 September 2020; Workplace Directions (No 4), 13 September 2020; Workplace (Additional Industry Obligations) Directions (No 5), 13 September 2020; Permitted Worker Scheme and Access to Onsite Childcare/Kingergarten Permit Scheme Directions (No 5), 13 September 2020.

[21] Stay at Home Direction (Restricted Areas) (No 15), 13 September 2020, cl 8; Permitted Worker Scheme and Access to Onsite Childcare/Kingergarten Permit Scheme Directions (No 5), 13 September 2020.

[22] Stay at Home Directions (Restricted Areas) (No 15), 13 September 2020, cls 5(1AD), 7.

[23] As above, cls 5(1AD), 7.

[24] As above, cls 5(1AD), 7.

[25]As above, cl 5(6).

[26] Restricted Activity (Restricted Areas) (No 9), 13 September 2020.

[27] Hospital Visitor Directions (No 11), 13 September 2020.

[28] Care Facilities Direction (No 11), 13 September 2020.

[29] Detention – Detention Notice (No 7), 19 July 2020.

[30] Diagnosed Persons and Close Contacts Directions (No 11), 13 September 2020.

[31] Stay at Home Direction (Non-Melbourne) (No 5), 13 September 2020.

[32] As above, cl 5(6).

[33] As above, cl 11.

[34] Restricted Activity Directions (Non-Melbourne) (No 4), 13 September 2020.

[35] Stay at Home Direction (Non-Melbourne) (No 5), 13 September 2020, cl 8.

[36] Hospital Visitor Directions (No 11), 13 September 2020.

[37] Care Facilities Direction (No 11), 13 September 2020.

[38] Detention – Detention Notice (No 7), 19 July 2020.

[39] Diagnosed Persons and Close Contacts Directions (No 11), 13 September 2020.

[40] Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Further Infringement Offences) Regulations 2020, 4 August 2020.

[41] Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Infringement) Regulations 2020 28 March 2020.

[42] Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Further Infringement Offences) Regulations 2020, 22 July 2020.

 

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