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COVID-19 Australia: Weekly Briefing (19 May 2020)

  • Legal Development 19 May 2020 19 May 2020
  • Asia Pacific

  • Coronavirus

COVID-19 Australia: Weekly Briefing (19 May 2020)

The weekly briefings are prepared to assist you with keeping up to date with the effects of any legislative, regulatory or general changes as a consequence of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Also, Clyde & Co also has a dedicated COVID-19 Information Hub which hosts many articles from around the world that provide different perspectives and in-depth analysis on many of these issues.

Public Health and Wellbeing Infringements

On Friday 15 May 2020, the National Cabinet re-convened to discuss Australia's COVID-19 Response. The Friday meeting took place after the release of the Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia (Roadmap). As we reported in our prior update, the Roadmap provides a plan for the economy to be re-opened in three stages, with the States and Territories giving effect to each stage at their own time and subject to an assessment of the local public health conditions.

Mental health was also an issue of consideration for the National Cabinet, which endorsed the Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Plan (Mental Health Plan), developed by the National Mental Health Commission. The National Cabinet has committed to investing $48.1 million in furtherance of the Mental Health Plan, part of which will go to supporting vulnerable groups and improving linkages between service providers and initiating a national mental health communication campaign.

The National Cabinet also noted that given the slowing of the outbreak and the present unused capacity in hospitals, elective surgery will also re-open in three stages (50%, 75% and 100% of normal surgical activity levels).

Additionally, the National Cabinet came to an agreement on a framework to inform decision-making around access to remote areas, which have been under travel restrictions out of concern for the vulnerability of remote communities. The National Cabinet agreed that prior to lifting any restrictions, appropriate arrangements must be in place to minimise the risk of transmission and outbreak management planning must have occurred.

The States and Territories published details on how they will give effect to the various stages of the Roadmap. All States and Territories have begun rolling back restrictions in respect of:

  • The maximum number of people at indoor and outdoor gatherings;

  • The maximum number of people at wedding and funerals;

  • Limitations on reasons a person may leave their place of residence; and

  • Restrictions on which facilities, venues and public spaces may be opened.

We note some of the particular differences in the approaches taken by the States and Territories below (as at 18 May 2020).

On 15 May 2020, NSW introduced the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No 2) 2020. As we reported previously, NSW will not be easing every restriction that the Roadmap sets out under Stage 1. For instance, holidays in regional areas of NSW remain prohibited.

South Australia, which commenced Stage 1 on Monday 11 May 2020, has announced that Stage 2 will begin on 8 June 2020, subject to an assessment of the public health conditions closer to that time. Under Stage 2 in South Australia services and facilities such as beauty services, cinemas and seated dining will be permitted to re-open. South Australia has flagged that after Stage 2, it will be considering the re-opening of venues such as nightclubs, licensed pubs and bars and other recreational venues. After Stage 2, South Australia will also consider lifting the state border restrictions and permitting travel into protected communities.

Victoria has also been gearing up for the easing of restrictions. On 12 May 2020, Victoria introduced the Stay at Home Directions (No 6) and the Restricted Activity Directions (No 7). These updated orders will permit outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people and allow up to 5 people to visit another person's home. Victoria has announced that it will release guidelines on the re-opening of cafes, restaurants and other hospitality business on Monday 25 May 2020. From 1 June 2020, Victoria envisages that restaurants and cafes will be able to resume dine-in services with a maximum of 20 patrons per enclosed space. This will be increased in two further stages, to 100 patrons per enclosed space for the second half of July 2020.

Queensland introduced the Home Confinement, Movement and Gathering Direction (No. 5) on 15 May 2020 to further implement the easing of restrictions which we reported on in our previous update. Notably, this Direction makes a distinction between the majority of Queenslanders, and those living in the outback. For example, Queenslanders are permitted to travel within 150km of their principal place of residence for recreational purposes, but may not travel to the outback. Those in the outback may travel within 500km of their place of residence for recreational purposes, but must do so within the outback only.

As part of the easing of restrictions, Tasmania introduced the Direction under Section 16 (Gatherings – No. 9) on 17 May 2020. Interestingly, the Direction requires that if premises are permitted to open and operate, a service is provided on premises, or where a person enters premises otherwise closed (for example, for the purpose of performing repairs) "all relevant COVID-19 control measures must be implemented in respect of the operation of the premises". Under the Direction, this refers to control measures which eliminate or minimise the risk to health and safety posed by COVID-19 that are implemented under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (Tas), after taking into account all relevant information, recommendations and guidance materials, published by Safe Work Australia or a public authority.

The COVID-19 orders and directions can be accessed at the following State and Territory websites (as at 18 May 2020):

Victoria: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/state-emergency    
Tasmania: https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/resources   
Queensland: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/system-governance/legislation/cho-public-health-directions-under-expanded-public-health-act-powers   
NSW: https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/   
South Australia: https://www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/emergency-declarations   
Western Australia: https://www.wa.gov.au/government/document-collections/covid-19-coronavirus-state-of-emergency-declarations
ACT: https://www.covid19.act.gov.au/help-and-advice/public-health-directions   
Northern Territory: https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/chief-health-officer-directions   

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