90 days of solitude: NSW Police say coronavirus rules will stand in place for the next three months

- April 2, 2020 3 MIN READ

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says the state’s tough social distancing and isolation laws will remain in place for at least 90 days, taking the restrictions to June 29. 

On Monday, the NSW government increased restrictions on freedom of movement in a bid to reduce the further spread of COVID-19, also ramping up the penalties for people and businesses who breach the rules, from $1000 on-the-spot fines, to potentially six months in jail or an $11,000 fine.

NSW residents, even when they don’t have the virus, are obliged to stay at home, and can only leave under specific circumstances.

There are just 16 “reasonable excuses” for leaving the house. They are:

  • 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
  • Exercising
  • Obtaining medical care or supplies or health supplies or fulfilling carer’s responsibilities
  • Attending a wedding or a funeral (the federal govt’s 5 people at a wedding and 10 at a funeral limits apply)
  • Moving to a new place of residence or between different places of residence of the person or inspecting a potential new place
  • Providing care or assistance (including personal care) to a vulnerable person or providing emergency assistance
  • Donating blood
  • Undertaking any legal obligations (including attending court or fulfilling bail requirements)
  • Accessing public services, including social services, employment services, domestic violence services mental health services, and 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

When out in public, a two-person limit on gatherings now applies, unless you’re members of the same household, along with some other specific exemptions.

People should observe the 1.5 metre social distancing rule.

Speaking this morning as NSW released its latest infection figures, Commissioner Fuller conceded that some of the initial responses by police may have been overzealous. One incident involved a father and young child sitting alone in a park being told to move on by officers.

Fuller said he will be personally reviewing all fines issued by his officers for breaches of the distancing rules, saying officers were trying to be reasonable.

“If I think it’s unreasonable, it will be withdrawn immediately and we’ll make personal contact with the individual,” he said.

Three fines were issued in the last 24 hours, including one to a man who refused to leave after police found four men drinking in park.

The Commissioner said questions about exercise caused the most confusion when it came to the new isolation powers, but people needed to keep moving.

“If I said that it’s OK to sit on a park bench, then everyone is going to go to the park. We’re going to end up where we started,” he said.

“On a hot day at Bondi Beach a couple of weekends ago, one person said they were going to go for a swim and we ended up with 10,000 people.”

The rules will stand in place for the next three months, Fuller said.

“There was a good question yesterday about when is the turn-off period for these orders. It is 90 days. People will have gotten the message by then, hopefully,” he said.

The good news for NSW is that the growth in infection rates continues to trend downwards this week with 116 new cases as of 8am Thursday for a total of  2,298. There are 43 patients in ICU – 20 on ventilators. The state also has 3,557 people who’ve returned from overseas under 14-day quarantine in hotels.

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