Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has declared a state of emergency for four weeks as the state government steps up its attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.
This declaration gives authorities powers under public health and wellbeing laws to enforce a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people and to fine or even detain people who flout quarantine orders.
The laws, which have never been used before, give the Chief Health Officer broad powers to do what he believes is necessary to contain the spread of the virus and reduce the risk to the public.
Fines of up to $20,000 could be imposed on anyone refusing to comply with a public health order issued under the legislation, and Mr Andrews warned on Monday morning there could be spot checks by police on people in 14-day self isolation after returning from overseas.
Talks are under way with Victoria Police about exactly how the orders will be enforced, the Premier said.
School closures will be discussed at a meeting of chief health officers and the Chief Medical Officer in Canberra on Monday and Tuesday as experts continue to debate the merits of the move.
What Victoria's state of emergency means
A state of emergency grants special powers to government authorities to protect the public in an extraordinary situation.
The Victorian government declared a four-week state of emergency from midday on Monday, March 16 using the special laws for the first time.
It will allow large areas or even suburbs and specific businesses to be isolated, and activates extraordinary powers to enforce self-isolation, prevent people from entering large venues and shut down mass gatherings.
Under this state of emergency the government can:
- Prohibit mass gatherings of more than 500 people. However, airports, schools and universities, aged care facilities, food markets, and emergency services are among the current exemptions.
- Schools exempt for now, but large gatherings such as assemblies or lectures are being restricted.
- Large public spaces needed for people to pass through such as Federation Square or Bourke Street Mall are excluded.
- Impose self-quarantine on anyone who has returned from overseas travel to any country after a specified date, though flight crews and Pacific Island citizens returning home will not need to self isolate.
- Spot checks on people in enforced self-isolation.
- Detain any person to eliminate risk to public health.
- Prevent any person or group from entering a defined emergency area.
- Impose penalties of up to $20,000 on individuals who fail to comply with a direction under the state of emergency. Body corporates can be fined up to $100,000.
"The advice is closing schools en masse … could do more harm than good," Mr Andrews said.
The Premier warned against panic-buying and hoarding, saying care packages would be made available by the government for vulnerable Victorians in self-isolation.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said people who were self-isolating could walk their dog, or go to the park, but they should stay away from supermarkets or other places where there would be face-to-face contact.
The Victorian Parliament will sit with an empty public gallery over its scheduled three-day session this week.
Tours and events have also been cancelled for this week as the State Parliament closes to the public.
"It is of utmost importance to us that every effort is made to protect the health and safety of our community," a statement said. "We must also ensure that the important business of Parliament can continue."
This week is the final sitting before a scheduled break in April.
Updated health advice for Australians
The symptoms of coronavirus include:
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing difficulties
If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
Source: Read Full Article