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

26 May 2020

This resource explains the basis for, and extent of, the Victorian restrictions related to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) as at 26 May 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]

This State of Emergency was extended on 11 May, and ends on 31 May 2020.[2] Further State of Emergency declarations may be made for further periods of four weeks, up to a maximum total period of six months.[3]

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

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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.[4]

The State of Emergency was declared using never-before used powers under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) (the Act).[5] The powers may be used in conjunction with the Public Health Powers.

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 conduct spot checks on returned travellers to ensure are complying with 14-day isolation requirements and enforce the bans on gatherings.[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 so far?

At the time of publication, the Emergency Powers have been used to:[16]

  • restrict certain businesses and activities;
  • direct people to stay home, except in certain circumstances;
  • restrict outdoor and home gatherings;
  • restrict visitors to hospitals;
  • restrict visitors to aged and other care facilitates;
  • detain anyone who has arrived in Australia from overseas in a hotel for 14 days; and
  • limit the movement of anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 and their close contacts.

DHHS has published answers to frequently asked questions on the limitations on movement in force from 11.59pm on 12 May, including about who can come over, what activities you can travel for and gathering outside.

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 business and activities are restricted?

This direction has been made under the Victorian Chief Medical Officer’s Public Health Power to close premises and their Emergency Power to give any other direction reasonably necessary to protect public health.[17]

At the time of publication, the following business or activities are prohibited:[18]

  • eating or drinking-in at cafes, canteens, fast food stores, restaurants, pubs, licenced clubs, bars and food courts, however these businesses may operate as a bottle shop or provide takeaway services or home delivery;
  • beauty and personal care services including nail salons, beauty therapy, tanning & waxing, tattoo parlours, spas and massage parlours;
  • entertainment facilities, such as cinemas, nightclubs, casinos, play centres, amusement parks, brothels, escort agencies, TABs and betting or wagering businesses and stadiums, except where used to broadcast a performance by electronic means where the only people in attendance are necessary to facilitate the broadcast;
  • indoor leisure and recreation facilities including gyms, pools, health clubs, fitness centres, yoga studios, barre and spin facilities, saunas, bath houses and health and wellness centres;
  • public pools;
  • animal facilities, such as zoos, wildlife parks and aquariums are closed to the public, but can be accessed to care for animals, to enable animal rescue and to maintain the facility; and
  • galleries, non-food markets and museums

The following activities are allowed, but the one person per four square metre rule applies:

  • outdoor boot camps, organised exercise and personal training may continue in groups of ten or less, where there is enough space to practice physical distancing and the operator requests the name and phone number of each attendee;
  • places of worship and community facilities such as community centres, halls, libraries and youth centres, may open to groups of ten members of the public for essential public support services such as:
    • a foodbank;
    • homeless support;
    • drug and alcohol, family violence or parenting support groups;
    • weddings with the couple, the celebrant and ten guests; and
    • funerals with the people needed to conduct the funeral, plus no more than 20 guests if indoor and 30 guests if outdoor;
    • places of worship can operate to broadcast ceremonies and for private worship in groups of up to ten people;
  • auction houses may operate online or where no more than ten members of the public are present, so long as the auction house requests the name and phone number of attendees;
  • public playgrounds, outdoor communal gym equipment and skate parks;
  • food markets;
  • hairdressers and barbers;
  • food and dining facilities within a workplace and truck stops serving food for truck drivers, but workers and truck drivers must not stay for more than an hour; or
  • places serving food to people in prison, hospital aged care, child care, Commonwealth defence facilities and homeless people; and
  • caravan parks and campgrounds may only house residents, people with no other residence in Victoria people in Victoria for work, people whose home is unavailable, people who require emergency accommodation or a person directed to stay there; and
  • real estate auctions or inspections, where ten or fewer people are present, excluding the owners, residents of the property and the agents, and the name and number of attendees is requested.

Professional sporting teams may train at pools, stadiums or facilities, one team at a time, while following the AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment. They must request each attendee to provide their name and number.

Businesses and activities that operate in an indoor space must ensure the total number of people in their business or facility does not breach the one person per square metre rule. They must display a sign which states the maximum number of people allowed in the space at one time.

When can I leave my home?

This direction has been made in accordance with the Victorian Chief Medical Officer’s power to restrict the movement of any person or group within Victoria, in conjunction with the power to give any other direction reasonably necessary to protect public health.[20] 

People may only leave their home or the place they ordinarily reside in Victoria:[21]

  • to buy food, drink or groceries,
  • for health or medical purposes, including appointments and goods;
  • to obtain goods or services from services or businesses that remain open, such as banks, post offices, pharmacies, hardware stores, vets and other retail;
  • to meet child care or support obligations;
  • if parents or guardians, to visit their child in detention or meet obligations to care or support their child;
  • to enable child-minding, so the child’s parent can go shopping , attend an appointment, care for a person, attend work or education (even if from home), exercise, visit family or friends, move house, seek safety or attend a police station or court;
  • to care or support a person with needs due to their age or health (including mental health and pregnancy);
  • to visit an aged care, disability care, psychiatric care or other care facility;
  • to visit someone they’re in an intimate personal relationship with, such as a girlfriend, boyfriend or partner;
  • to visit a hospital;
  • to go to a wedding or funeral that complies with the limits on attendance (see below);
  • to visit a cemetery;
  • to donate blood;
  • to attend paid or voluntary work that cannot be done at home, including for charitable or religious purposes;
  • to attend school that has resumed in-person or other education that cannot be done at home, including driving lessons and taking a child to school;
  • for outdoor exercise and sporting activities, except professional sport or part of organised competition, and while maintaining a 1.5 metre distance from others;
  • for outdoor recreation, including a picnic, fishing, boating, hiking, hunting, diving, but must maintain a 1.5 metre distance from others;
  • as required by law to attend a police station or court;
  • attend an auction, inspection or other appointment needed to deal with a property;
  • if they live in more than one place, to move between premises;
  • move house, or leave Victoria if the person lives elsewhere; or
  • to escape harm including family violence, or in an emergency.

Visits to friends and family, exercise and recreation may be no longer than a day, with no overnight stay.

The requirement to stay at home except for the above reasons do not apply to people experiencing homelessness, or where a person’s home is unavailable due to the risk of harm (including due to family violence).[22]

What are the rules on gatherings?

The rules differ, depending on whether you’re gathering indoors, outdoors or at someone’s home.

They have been made in accordance with the Victorian Chief Medical Officer’s power to restrict the movement of any person or group within Victoria, in conjunction with the power to give any other direction reasonably necessary to protect public health.[23]

Can I have someone over?

As well as people you live with, you can have up to five people at your house who are:

  • friends or family;
  • your partner or person you have an intimate personal relationship with; or
  • at your home for a wedding or funeral.

Note, you may not have friends or family over to your house to exercise or engage in sporting or recreational activities at your home.

The five person limit doesn’t apply where someone is at your home because:[24]

  • they live with you;
  • they are living with you to self-isolate due to being diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • it is necessary for them to enter for paid or voluntary work or education that cannot be done at their home;
  • it is necessary to arrange child-minding, where the parent needs to attend work or education, care for others or leave their house for accepted reasons, described above;
  • it is necessary for them to provide care to children or people with health issues;
  • it is for a wedding or funeral;
  • it is for a residential house inspection, by private appointment;
  • there is a medical or other emergency; or
  • their entry is allowed by law.

Open spaces

Groups of up to ten people can meet in open public spaces.[25]

This rule does not apply:

  • where each person lives together;
  • to weddings (note, only ten guests, the couple and the celebrant may attend the wedding);
  • to funerals (there must be no more than 30 people at an outdoor funeral, 20 people at an indoor funeral, excluding those needed to conduct the funeral);
  • to paid or voluntary work or education that cannot be done at home;
  • to child-minding, where the child’s parent needs to attend work or education, care for others or leave their house for accepted reasons, described above ;
  • to child visits as part of parenting arrangements or where the child is in detention;
  • to visits to care facilities, hospitals or to donate blood;
  • to care for a person with health issues;
  • in an emergency situation.

Can I visit someone in aged care or other residential care?

This direction is made pursuant to an Emergency Power that allows the Victorian Chief Health Officer to restrict the movement of people in Victoria, and give any other direction reasonably necessary to protect public health.[26]

It restricts access to the following types of facilities:[27]

  • residential aged care;
  • alcohol and drug residential service;
  • homeless residential services
  • disability residential services and specialist accommodation;
  • secure welfare services;
  • supported residential service;
  • short-term accommodation and assistance properties;
  • Thomas Embling Hospital; and
  • Disability Forensic Assessment and Treatment Services.

We will refer to these as care facilities.

Unless you are a resident or worker at a care facility, you may only visit a care facility where:[28]

  • you are visiting someone for the purpose of care and support, and you are the only care and support visit for that resident on that day;
  • you are providing end of life support to a resident;
  • you are a possible future resident at the care facility; or
  • you are supporting a possible future resident (no more than two people may accompany the possible future resident).

Workers and visitors must not enter a care facility where they:[29]

  • have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and not granted clearance from isolation;
  • arrived in Australia within the past 14 days;
  • have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days;
  • if visiting an aged care facility, have not had the latest flu vaccination (if available to them);
  • is under 16, unless the visit is for end of life support, or they are accompanied by an adult and visiting a secured welfare service, supported residential service or alcohol and drug residential service;
  • have a fever over 37.5 degrees; or
  • have symptoms of acute respiratory infection.

The Department of Health and Human Services has published an FAQ on these rules, available here.

Can I visit someone in hospital?

This direction is made pursuant to an Emergency Power that allows the Victorian Chief Health Officer to restrict the movement of people in Victoria. [30]

Unless you are a patient, worker at a hospital or specifically allowed, you must not visit a hospital unless:[31]

  • you are the parent or guardian of a patient under 18 years;
  • you are the carer of a patient with a disability;
  • you are the partner of a patient whose care at hospital relates to their pregnancy;
  • you are accompanying a patient to an outpatient appointment;
  • you are accompanying an emergency department patient;
  • you are visiting a person who is on end of life support;
  • you are visiting someone for the purpose of care and support, and you are the only care and support visit for that patient on that day.

Only two visitors may visit a patient at a time.

Workers and visitors must not enter a hospital where they:  [32]

  • have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and not yet been granted isolation clearance from isolation;
  • arrived in Australia within the past 14 days;
  • have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days;
  • have a fever over 37.5 degrees; or
  • have symptoms of acute respiratory infection.

What if I arrive in Victoria from overseas?

This direction and detention order is made pursuant to an Emergency Power that allows the Victorian Chief Health Officer to restrict the movement of people in Victoria.[33]

Anyone who arrives in Victoria from will be detained in a hotel room for 14 days.[34] Recent arrivals will only be able to leave the room in an emergency or if granted permission:

  • to seek medical care (e.g. a hospital check-up);
  • where reasonably necessary for the person’s physical or mental health; or
  • on other compassionate grounds.

They must not allow any other person to enter the room, unless allowed, for example to provide food or medicine.

People under 18 may have a parent or guardian present, if they agree to submit to the same detention conditions.

While a person is detained, their detention will be reviewed once every 24 hours to determine whether it is reasonably necessary to reduce the risk to public health.

What if I’m diagnosed with COVID-19 or am a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19?

Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer issued this direction pursuant with Emergency Powers to restrict the movement of people and protect public health.[35]

People who are diagnosed with COVID-19, live with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or are a close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 must not leave the place they are self-isolating except:[36]  

  • to seek medical care or supplies;
  • in an emergency;
  • for exercise outdoors, where they remain 1.5 metres from others who are not also self-quarantining or isolating; or
  • where required to by law.

They must not allow other people to enter the place they are living unless:

  • also live there;
  • are also required to self-isolate;
  • it is needed for medical or emergency reasons; or
  • they are a disability worker.

Other rules and the length of isolation differ depending on whether the person was diagnosed with COVID-19, the person lives with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or they had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19.

People diagnosed with COVID-19

Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 must immediately self-isolate at home or another suitable place, or attend a hospital for medical treatment and then self-isolate.[37]

They must let others who live where they are self-isolating know they have been diagnosed. They must let the Department of Health and Human Services know where they are self-isolating and provide the names of others living with them.

Someone diagnosed with COVID-19 may only stop self-isolating when given written clearance from an officer of the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

People who live with someone diagnosed with COVID-19

Anyone who lives with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 must self-isolate. They only stop self-isolating 14 days after they have been granted clearance from isolation.[38]

If they are tested during a self-isolation period that ends before they receive their test results, their self-isolation period is extended until they receive test results. If they are then diagnosed, the rules for people diagnosed with COVID-19 apply. If the test reveals they do not have COVID-19, their original end date for self-isolation applies.

Other close contacts of someone diagnosed with COVID-19

The Department of Health and Human Services will notify you if you are determined to be a close contact. If a person is notified that they are a close contact, they must self-isolate immediately. Their period of self-isolation will be determined by the Department, which must include an end date.[39]

If they are tested during a self-isolation period that ends before they receive their test results, their self-isolation period is extended until they receive test results. If they are then diagnosed, the rules for people diagnosed with COVID-19 apply. If the test reveals they do not have COVID-19, their original end date for self-isolation applies.

Penalties

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 $20,000 for individuals and $100,000 for businesses.[40]

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 26 May 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, 11 May 2020.

[3] Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) (the Act) s 198(7).

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

[5] 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”.

[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 media alert, 23 March 2020.

[15] The Act ss 193 and 203.

[16] DHHS, List of directions issued by the Chief Health Officer.

[17] The Act s 190(1)(a), (g) and 200(1)(d).

[18] Directions from the Deputy Health Officer (Communicable Disease) in accordance with emergency powers arising from the declared state of emergency, Restricted Activity Directions (No 8) 24 May 2020

[19]  As above, cl 6(4)-(5).

[20]  The Act s 200(1)(b) and (d).

[21] Directions from the Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease) in accordance with the Emergency Powers arising from declared State of Emergency, Stay at Home Directions (No 7), 24 May 2020.

[22] As above, cl 5(2)

[23] As above.

[24] As above, cl 11(1).

[25] As above, cl 11(2).

[26] The Act s 200(1)(b),(d).

[27] Direction from the Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease) in accordance with emergency powers arising from declared state of emergency, Care Facilities Directions (No 3), 11 May 2020.

[28] As above, cl 7

[29] As above, cl 5(2).

[30] The Act s 200(1)(b).

[31] Direction from the Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease) in accordance with emergency powers arising from declared state of emergency, Hospital Visitor Directions (No 3), 11 May 2020, cl 5.

[32] As above cl 4(2).

[33] The Act s 200(1); Direction and detention notice No 3, Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) s 200.

[34] As above.

[35] The Act s 200(1)(b),(d).

[36] Direction from the Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease) in accordance with the Emergency Powers arising from declared State of Emergency, Diagnosed Persons and Close Contacts, 11 May 2020, cl 9.

[37] As above, cl 4.

[38] As above, cl 6.

[39] As above, cl 7.

[40] The Act ss 193 and 203.

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