Recent media coverage in the past week has centred on the outbreak in Melbourne of confirmed cases of persons who have contracted COVID-19 and the implications of this on easing of movement restrictions across state borders as well as the progress of economic recovery, not just in that state, but nationally. Whilst Victoria has now implemented suburb by suburb lockdowns to once again restrict gathering and movement within and outside 'hot spots' to contain the spread of COVID-19, NSW has taken steps in the other direction by implementing measures to further ease restrictions that were currently in place.
Commencing 1 July 2020 NSW eased restrictions on gathering and movement by way of the introduction of the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No.4) 2020 (NSW) (the new 'Order'); these new measures come just before the July school holidays and enable the following:
- Up to 20 visitors may now visit another household at any one time (Clause 11(1)). This does not apply to a wedding, a funeral, or a memorial service or, a gathering immediately after a wedding, a funeral or a memorial service at the residential premises (Clause 11(2)).
- For a wedding, or gathering immediately after a wedding, the occupier of a place of residence must not allow more than 20 visitors to be at the place of residence, unless the size of the premises is sufficient to ensure there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person on the premises (Clause 12). Further, the occupier of a place of residence must not allow more than 50 visitors to be at the place of residence for a funeral or memorial service, or a gathering immediately after a funeral or memorial service, unless the size of the premises is sufficient to ensure there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person on the premises (Clause 13);
- Weddings are now unrestricted in terms of the number guests that can attend, but the occupier of the premises where the wedding is taking place must not allow persons on the premises if the size of the premises is insufficient to ensure there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person on the premises (Clause 8(1));
- The occupier of premises (a place of public worship, funeral home, or crematorium) must not allow more than 50 persons to be on the premises for a funeral or memorial service, or a gathering immediately after a funeral or memorial service, if the size of the premises is insufficient to ensure there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person on the premises (Clause 9(2));
- Indoor (non-residential) premises including pubs, cafes and restaurants, as well as functions can hold any number of patrons but the occupier of the premises must not allow persons on the premises if the size of the premises is insufficient to ensure there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person on the premises (Clause 8(1));
- A person must not participate in an outdoor public gathering of more than 20 people (Clause 18);
- Premises cannot be used for the purpose of a night club (Clause 20) or for the purpose of a music festival (Clause 21);
- The occupier of a recreation facility (major) must not allow persons, other than persons engaged in work, to be on the premises unless, admission to the premises is by way of a ticket and each person has been assigned to a seating area and, the total number of persons is the lesser of 25% of the capacity of the premises or 10,000 persons (Clause 10(1)); this does not apply to a premises that are limited to a maximum of 500 persons and the size of the premises is sufficient to ensure there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person on the premises (Clause 10(2)); and
- Community sporting activities (including a training session for a community sporting activity) can resume, but the organiser of the community sporting activity must ensure that a gathering for the activity involves no more than 500 participants (Clause 17). The organiser of a community sporting activity that involves a gathering of more than 20 participants must develop and comply with a COVID-19 Safety Plan that addresses the matters required by the COVID-19 safety checklist approved by the Chief Health Officer for community sporting competitions and published on the NSW Government website (Clause 16(a)).
The following points are further important takeaways of the new Order:
- An employer must allow an employee to work at the employee's place of residence where it is reasonably practicable to do so (Clause 6).
- Persons must, if required to do so by the occupier of relevant premises, provide the person's contact details to the occupier (Clause 22(1)) when the person enters the premises to attend a service, or to consume food or drink on the premises, or to enter the premises of a pub, small bar or registered club. The occupier of the premises must require the person to provide the person's contact details unless the person is a member of a discreet group of people who are attending the premises together and the occupier obtains contact details from one adult member of the group (for example a person who makes a booking or reservation), and must keep for 4 weeks a record of all contact details provided, and on request, provide the record to the Chief Health Officer (Clause 22(2));
- Schedule 1 of the Order provides for a list of premises requiring a COVID-19 Safety Plan;
- Schedule 2 lists Exempted gatherings;
- Section 10 of the Public Health Act 2010 creates an offence if an individual fails to comply with the Order with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 6 months or a fine of up to $11,000 (or both) plus a further $5,500 fine each day the offence continues. Corporations that fail to comply with a direction are liable to a fine of $55,000 and $27,500 each day the offence continues.
NSW have now eased restrictions on gathering and movement quite substantially since the partial lockdown was first eased however, the onus is on individuals to maintain good personal hygiene practices and abide by the requirements of the Order, as well as continue to practice social distancing to avoid an outbreak of the type currently in Victoria. The Order provides for further increased freedoms but with some restraint; it's not quite 'Come One, Come All', but we're getting there cautiously.
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