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

2 September 2020

This resource explains the basis for, and extent of, the restrictions related to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) in Western Australia (WA) as at 2 September 2020.

There are currently two COVID-19-related emergency declarations in force across WA:

  • a public health state of emergency was initially declared (Public Health Emergency) on 16 March 2020, under the Public Health Act 2016 (WA) (the Public Health Act),[1] and has since been extended every two weeks. The Public Health Emergency latest extension ends on 16 September 2020;[2] and
  • a state of emergency declared (State of Emergency) on 15 March 2020, under the Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA) (EM Act).[3] The State of Emergency has been extended every two weeks, and the latest extension ends at 12am on 3 September 2020.[4]

Both emergency declarations may be extended by the relevant Ministers for further periods of 14 days.[5]

  Not in WA?

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

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

  This resource is out of date 

Restrictions have changed and we’re working to update this resource. Check out the Western Australian Government website for the latest information on Western Australia’s rules. 

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

The Public Health Emergency declaration gives the Chief Health Officer broad powers to manage the declared emergency in respect of COVID-19 (Public Health Powers).[6]

The State of Emergency declaration gives the State Emergency Coordinator (who is the Commissioner of Police)[7] broad powers to manage the declared emergency in respect of COVID-19 (Emergency Powers).[8]

What are the Public Health Powers and Emergency Powers?

Public Health Powers

During the Public Health Emergency, the Chief Health Officer may authorise certain people and health professionals (Emergency Officers) to exercise one or more of the Public Health Powers.[9] Police officers and others may help an Emergency Officer exercising a Public Health Powers.[10]

Emergency Officers can:[11]

  • direct or prohibit the movement of persons, animals and vehicles within, into, out of or around WA or any part of WA;
  • direct the evacuation and removal of persons, animals and vehicles from WA or any part of WA;
  • close any road, access route or area of water in or leading to WA;
  • take control of, or make use of, any premises or property;
  • take control of, or make use of, any vaccine or drug;
  • direct a person to:
      • remain in a specified area or remain quarantined from other persons for up to 24 hours unless the Chief Health Officer has specified a longer period;
      • undergo medical observation, medical examination or medical treatment or be vaccinated as directed by the officer; and
      • undergo decontamination procedures within any reasonable period, and in any reasonable manner specified by the officer;
  • exercise other emergency powers, including, relevantly, the serious public health incident powers to:
      • close any premises;
      • direct any person to enter, not to enter, to leave or remain for a specified period at any premises; and
  • take, or direct another person to take, any action that the officer considers is reasonably necessary to prevent, control or abate the serious public health risk.

Emergency Powers under the EM Act

While a State of Emergency is in force, the State Emergency Coordinator (and any person authorised by the State Emergency Coordinator[12] may exercise one or more of the Emergency Powers for the purpose of emergency management.  These include powers to (amongst other things):[13]

  • direct or prohibit the movement of persons and vehicles within, into, out of, or around WA or any part of WA;
  • direct the evacuation and removal of persons from WA or any part of WA;
  • close any road, access route or area of water in or leading to WA;
  • direct that any road access route or area of water in or leading to the emergency area be closed; and
  • take control of or make use of any place, vehicle or other thing.

In addition, police officers may direct the closure of a place of business, worship or entertainment in WA to the public for a specified period (provided that such a direction does not conflict with a direction given, or the exercise of an Emergency Power, by the State Emergency Coordinator).[14]

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

Public Health Powers

Only Emergency Officers may exercise the Public Health Powers.[15] 

An Emergency Officer includes:[16] 

  • a person authorised to exercise the Public Health Powers by the Chief Health Officer; and
  • a health professional authorised to exercise the Public Health Powers by the Chief Health Officer.

An Emergency Officer who takes control of or makes use of any premises or property when exercising the Public Health Powers must ensure that as soon as reasonably practicable and not later than seven days after they take control or use the premises, a written notice is given to the owner or occupier of the premises stating:

  • that the property has been taken control of or made use of; and
  • the name of the Emergency Officer.[17] 

Emergency Powers

The State Emergency Coordinator may authorise persons to act as Authorised Officers while an Emergency Declaration is in force.[18] 

If an identification card has been issued to an authorised officer, he or she should carry the identification card while performing his or her functions, and if it is practicable to do so, produce it before exercising the Emergency Powers.[19]

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

The Emergency Powers and Public Health Powers have been used to:

See the linked Western Australian Government’s explanations of these rules 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 a direction given under the Emergency Powers, without reasonable excuse, could result in a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for bodies corporate or imprisonment for up to 12 months.[28] 

Refusing or failing to comply with a direction given under the Public Health Powers, without a reasonable excuse, could result in a fine of up to $20,000 for individuals and $100,000 for bodies corporate.[29]

If you receive a fine or are imprisoned, you may choose to seek legal advice. You may have a defence if you have a reasonable excuse for being unable to comply with the direction.

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 22 September 2020. You should review the WA Government website for the most up to date information.

Jurisdiction

This is a WA resource.

References

[1] Public Health Act 2016 (WA) (Public Health Act) s 167(1); WA Declaration of Public Health State of Emergency made by the Minister for Health under section 167 of the Public Health dated 23 March 2020; Western Australian Government Gazette No.42, 24 March 2020.

[2] Extension of Declaration (No. 2) of Public Health State of Emergency, 2 September 2020.

[3] Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA) (EM Act) s 56; Western Australia Declaration of State of Emergency made by the Minister for Emergency Services under section 56 of the EM Act dated 15 March 2020.

[4] Western Australia Extension of State of Emergency Declaration, 2 September 2020.

[5] See Public Health Act s 170 and the EM Act s 58.

[6] Public Health Act part 12, division 5.

[7] EM Act s 10.

[8] EM Act Part 6, division 1.

[9] Emergency Officers includes any Authorised Officers and Health Professionals authorised by the Chief Health Officer under s174(2) of the Public Health Act.

[10] Public Health Act s 190(3).

[11] Public Health Act s 180, 182(1), 182(3), 182(4); Public Health Act s 157 and s 190(1)(p).

[12] EM Act s 61.

[13] As above s 67.

[14] As above s 71.

[15] Public Health Act s 178.

[16] As above s 174.

[17] As above s 183(5).

[18] EM Act s 61.

[19] As above s 62(2).

[20] Closure and Restriction (Limit the Spread) Directions (No 5), 26 June 2020. 

[21] Closure and Restriction (Limit the spread) Amendment Directions (HBF Stadium), 19 July 2020; Closure and Restriction (Limit the Spread) Directions (No 5), 26 June 2020;  Closure and Restriction (Funeral) Directions, 5 June 2020; Approved TAB Outlets Under the Closure and Restrictions (Limit the Spread) Directions (No 3), 17 May 2020; Public Authorities – Delivery of Goods and Collection of Rubbish and Refuse Directions, 2 May 2020

[22] Quarantine (Closing the border) directions approval for rig or platform crew (No 2), 18 August 2020; Approval for Maritime Crew (No 3),18 August 2020; Quarantine (Closing the Border) Directions Paragraph 5(e)(ii) (Flight Crew and Transiting Aircraft Passengers) Approval (No 3), 17 August 2020; Exempt Traveller (Indian Ocean Territories Travellers) Approval Under Paragraph 27(r) (No 2), 14 August 2020;  Exempt Traveller (International and domestic flight crew) Approval and Conditions (no 3), 13 August 2020; Exempt Traveller (International and Domestic Flight Crew) Approval and Conditions (No 4), 27 August 2020; Presentation for Testing Direction, 11 August 2020; Transport, Freight and Logistics Direction, 11 August 2020; Quarantine (Closing the Border) Amendment Direction (No 2), 20 July 2020; Quarantine (Closing the Border) Amendment Direction (No 3), 19 July 2020; Woodside FIFO Worker Directions, 13 July 2020; Authorisation (No 3) To Approve Persons As exempt Travellers Under the Quarantine (Closing the Border) Directions, 8 July 2020; Authorisation (No 2) To Approve Persons As exempt Travellers Under the Quarantine (Closing the Border) Directions, 8 July 2020; Quarantine (Closing the Border) Amendment Directions, 7 July 2020; Quarantine (Closing the border) Directions Approval for Transiting Aircraft Passengers (No 2), 25 May 2020; Chevron FIFO Worker Directions, 21 May 2020; Quarantine (Closing the Border Directions), 5 April 2020; Omnibus Amendment Directions, 27 August 2020. 

[23] As above.

[24] Quarantine and Isolation (Undiagnosed) Amendment Directions, 24 July 2020; Quarantine and Isolation (Undiagnosed) Directions, 9 May 2020; Omnibus Amendment Directions, 27 August 2020. 

[25] Isolation (Diagnosed) Directions, 9 May 2020; Omnibus Amendment Directions, 27 August 2020. 

[26] Visitors to Residential Aged Care Facilities Directions (No 3), 8 July 2020.

[27] Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 to the Directions (Googar Goonyool), 11 August 2020; Authorisation to approve a person as a person who is performing an essential service under the prohibition on regional travel directions, 5 August 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 to the Directions (Googar Goonyool), 4 August 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 to the Directions (Lombadina), 4 August 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 to the Directions (Embulgun), 4 August 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 to the Directions (Burrguk), 4 August 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 of the Directions (Doon Doon), 24 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 of the Directions (Mowanjum), 24 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 of the Directions (Gnylmarung), 24 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 of the Directions (Gumbarnun), 24 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 of the Directions (Goombaragin), 24 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 of the Directions (Mercedes Cove), 24 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 to the Directions (Carranya), 20 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 to the Directions (Baulu Wah), 19 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 to the Directions (Wuggubun), 19 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 to the Directions (Imintij), 9 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 to the Directions (Mimbi), 8 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), Variation of Schedule 1 to the Directions (Djarindjin), 1 July 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), 23 June 2020; Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions (No 3), 4 June 2020.

[28] The EM Act s 86; Emergency Management Regulations 2006 rr 33(1), (2); Criminal Procedure Act 2004 ss 5(1), (3).

[29] The Public Health Act s 202.

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