It’s the long weekend, which would normally be a time to go out, see family and friends, socialise and have fun. But with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic going on, we are no longer free to do those things. Cafés, bars and restaurants have closed down. Concerts, sporting events and public shows have been cancelled. Cinemas, museums, theatres, churches, gyms and nigthclubs have all been forced to shut their doors. Restrictions have been placed on ordinary people that dictate when and why we are allowed to leave our homes.
Last week, the NSW government introduced legislation in an effort to deal with the public health risk of COVID-19 and its possible consequences. The new legislation makes it illegal for people to leave their homes without a “reasonable excuse”. It also makes it illegal for people to participate in a gathering in a public place of more than 2 persons.
So, what exactly does this mean for you? Can you still go to the shops? Can you visit your family? Can you travel to work/school/university? What about weddings and funerals? Can you still go away on holiday? There are a whole host of questions that arise when dealing with the new restrictions, and a great deal of uncertainty among the public about what people can and cannot do.
Here is a full list of the “reasonable excuses” to leave your place of residence, from the new legislation:
- Obtaining food or other goods or services for the personal needs of the household or other household purposes (including for pets) and for vulnerable persons
- Travelling for the purposes of work if the person cannot work from the person’s place of residence
- Travelling for the purposes of attending childcare (including picking up or dropping another person at childcare)
- Travelling for the purposes of facilitating attendance at a school or other educational institution if the person attending the school or institution cannot learn from the person’s place of residence
- Obtaining medical care or supplies or health supplies or fulfilling carer’s responsibilities
- Attending a wedding or a funeral in the circumstances referred to in clause 6(2)(d) and (e) or 7(1)(h)
- Moving to a new place of residence (including a business moving to new premises) or between different places of residence of the person or inspecting a potential new place of residence
- Providing care or assistance (including personal care) to a vulnerable person or providing emergency assistance
- Donating blood
- Undertaking any legal obligations
- Accessing public services (whether provided by Government, a private provider or a non-Government organisation), including:
- social services
- employment services
- domestic violence services
- mental health services
- services provided to victims (including as victims of crime)
- For children who do not live in the same household as their parents or siblings or one of their parents or siblings—continuing existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children or siblings
- For a person who is a priest, minister of religion or member of a religious order— going to the person’s place of worship or providing pastoral care to another person
- Avoiding injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm
- For emergencies or compassionate reasons
Marrickville Legal Centre has posted a fantastic article that addresses many of the issues raised by this new legislation, including the exceptions to the rules about public gatherings, the penalties for breaching these rules, how to deal with being approached by the police, and examples of situations that are/aren’t allowed . Have a read of the article to get a clearer picture of what actions you are allowed to take.
You can also visit the NSW Government website for a handy guide to the new rules, as well as information about social distancing and travelling, and a list of businesses and services that are open, closed or restricted.
This is a difficult time for all of us, and nobody really knows how long these restrictions will be in place. What is most important is that we are kind and civil to each other and that we support each other as best we can through this unfolding situation.
Stay safe, be kind, and enjoy your long weekend as best you can!
If you need any legal advice in relation to the new legislation, or any other legal matter, then give Martin Bullock Lawyers a call on (02) 9687 9322.