UPDATED 2:40 pm NSW and ACT residents who leave their homes without a valid excuse could face fines of up to $11,000 or six months’ jail time as the states and territories toughen their social distancing and quarantine regulations to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The NSW public health order (PHO) came into effect today (31 March) and requires residents to stay home unless they are going to work, an education institution, to shop for food and essentials, get medical care or supplies, or exercise (subject to social distancing regulations).
The ACT Cabinet met this morning and agreed to follow NSW’s lead, including increasing ACT fines to match NSW.
“As signalled yesterday, the ACT will be adopting the same on-the-spot fine structure as NSW when enforcing restrictions designed to limit the spread of coronavirus in the ACT,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr said after today’s Cabinet meeting.
“The first phase of enforcing new rules will be about education and warnings; however, the second phase includes the capacity for police to issue on-the-spot fines and they will be identical to those set by NSW.”
Mr Barr further warned that if “there is flagrant abuse” of quarantine regulations, prosecutions may follow fines.
The NSW public health order codified Sunday’s National Cabinet recommendations, banning gatherings of two or more people unless they are members of the same household or a meeting is essential for work or education.
Corporations in NSW and the ACT can now be fined up to $55,000 if they break the rules, and will be slugged an extra $27,500 for each day they continue to offend.
Individuals will be liable for an extra $5,500 for each day they continue to break the rules.
Reasonable excuses for breaking quarantine include giving blood, leaving the house to avoid illness or escape harm, to deal with an emergency or on compassionate grounds, to access social services, or to visit your parents or children if you live apart.
The tougher restrictions were announced a day after a 30-year-old man was arrested for breaking his mandatory self-isolation a third time after arriving on a flight from Jordan on 18 March.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said officers would be enforcing the quarantine period and would not hesitate to take action against individuals who continue to ignore the law.
“Anyone who does not comply will be breaking the law, it is as simple as that. People need to take this seriously,” Commissioner Fuller said.
A full list of the rules and exemptions can be found at Public Health Orders.