The Australian and New South Wales government has introduced new legislation in response to COVID 19 pandemic. Over 15 different public health orders have been made under the Public Health Act 2010. Find out more about the New South Wales public health orders? What are the restrictions, and how does it affect you? Let’s take a closer look.
What Is A Public Health OrderUnder the Public Health Act, the NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research has introduced several public health orders to help protect public health during the COVID 19 pandemic. The orders state that residents must comply with the orders and restrictions or they may be fined or charged with an offence by the NSW police. Several different orders have been introduced, which are regularly updated to adapt to current circumstances to keep the community safe and help mitigate the risk of contracting or passing on the disease.
General OrdersThe general orders cover a variety of situations which may pose a risk to public health as a result of the COVID outbreak. Including instances when an individual must wear a fitted face covering. The current order states that anyone over 12 years must:
Wear A Mask At The Following Locations:
- Airport or cruise terminal
- Public hospital
- Private health facility
- Residential care
- Indoor music festivals
- Public transport
When Can A Mask Be Removed?
- Eating or drinking
- During exercise
- Communicating with a deaf or HOH individual
- Poses a safety or health concern
- Emergency situations
- Patient in a hospital
- Resident in a care facility
- Establish identity
COVID 19 Check InsWhen a person enters certain premises, they must check in to electronically register their contact details. These details will be held by the premises owner for a minimum of four weeks. These details are kept for contact tracing during COVID 19.
Access To Specific PremisesOperators of aged care facilities should adhere to the advice of the Chief Health Officer concerning the management of people entering the centre. Screening before entry is necessary to ensure all staff and visitors are fully vaccinated against COVID 19 and the influenza virus. Masks must always be worn by staff and visitors. Group recreational activities must comply with current safe distancing and conduct requirements. Indoor music festivals also require that all attendees are fully vaccinated and wear a mask whilst indoors. Only fully vaccinated people can attend.
Behaviour And Public Health DirectionsIt is an offence to spit intentionally or cough on a person, specifically a public official or worker, like health workers, police officers or retail workers. The health orders have evolved and adapted as circumstances changed. On the 17th of March 2020, the first two orders were passed, which related to restrictions involving public events of more than 500 persons and quarantine periods for individuals returning to Australia from overseas. One week later, hundreds of people gathered on Bondi Beach in Sydney. Due to orders being blatantly ignored, legislation was passed in Mar 2020 that allowed NSW police to issue on the spot fines to anyone knowingly breaching an order. If a police officer is satisfied that an individual’s behaviour is risking the spread of COVID 19 and failing to adhere to public health directions, they are within their right to issue on the spot fines up to $1000. NSW police have issued over 560 on the spot infringement notices totalling over $560 000 in fines.
Self IsolationSelf isolation means that if you have tested positive for COVID 19, you must stay away from other individuals to help stop the spread of the virus. This includes not going to work, school, public places or having any visitors at your home unless they are health care providers. If you live with other people, you should separate yourself from them where possible, use a separate bathroom and sleep in a different room. Practice good hygiene, including regular use of hand sanitiser, washing hands with soap and water, covering coughs and wearing a mask. You are permitted to leave for medical care and get a COVID test.
Vaccination Mandate For Healthcare WorkersUnder the Public Health Act, an order has been created called the Public Health (COVID 19 Vaccination of Health Care Workers) Order 2022. The order states that stage 1 and 2 health care workers are only permitted to work if they have had at least two doses of the COVID 19 vaccine. They must be able to provide vaccination evidence and are only exempt in cases where they cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons. Exemptions are also permitted for workers who provide health services with no physical contact with members of the community or in a location where there are no patients, clients or individuals accessing health care onsite.
Vaccination Mandate for Disability And Aged Care WorkersThe COVID 19 Care Services Order states that all workers in a residential aged care facility and disability service workers must be appropriately vaccinated before entering their work premises. The only exception is for individuals entering the location for emergency medical situations or a non medical emergency such as a fire or gas leak. By following the chief health officer’s advice, each patient in the facility is restricted to only two visitors per 24 hours unless the person is providing a service, medical treatment, or a student. There is an exemption for workers who have received two doses of the vaccine. They are permitted to continue working with the proviso to administer their third dose as soon as possible. Also, in some instances, the health orders state that unvaccinated individuals are permitted to visit a resident of the facility who is at the end of their life.
Supreme Court DecisionThe Supreme Court has dismissed two legal challenges which sought to invalidate the NSW Public Health Orders. The plaintiff’s claims were made on the following grounds: The public health orders were unreasonable as they affected their fundamental rights and freedoms. Also, the health orders were inconsistent with the constitution, were made for an improper purpose, and were beyond the scope of the Health Act. The Supreme Court determined that the health orders were valid and consistent with the powers conferred to the New South Wales Minister for Health and Medical Research under the Public Health Act 2010. They did not violate any right to bodily integrity, were focused exclusively on public safety and were necessary to manage the risk to public health and possible consequences. The decision of the Supreme Court was published, which now mandates that vaccination of some workers is not unlawful.
International Air TravelA public health order has been established, stipulating travel requirements for all international air passengers, maritime arrivals, and flight crew. International visitors on arrival to NSW must:
- Comply with NSW health guidelines
- Undergo a COVID 19 test within 24 hours
- Travel by the most direct route to their place of residence or accommodation venue
- Self isolate until they produce a negative COVID 19 test result