New Government restrictions limit gatherings to 2 people

This blog is part of a series relating to the economic impacts of the COVID-19, novel coronavirus pandemic of 2020.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, the Federal Government has again announced new measures designed to further limit the spread of the virus. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that new restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings will come into effect at midnight tonight, with the maximum number of people now limited to just 2. These measures will be in place for at least the next four weeks and then reviewed. This does not include those within the same household. This is a reduction from the previous measures which had limited gatherings for things like ‘bootcamps’ to 10 people. With these new laws come strict penalties for non-compliance and police are being provided with new powers in order to enforce these rules with one-the-spot fines for both individuals and businesses. While the measures came from the Federal Government it will be up to each state and territory to decide on whether and how to proceed with legal enforcement, as an acknowledgment of the different needs of each region. This stage of restrictions has seen public playgrounds and skate parks closed, another blow to the already limited low cost diversionary activities available to families and young people. As it stands, all states and territories have announced their response to the new measures except Queensland and WA. These are as follows:

  • NT – The NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner has announced that the new restrictions would not be legally enforced in the Territory but the existing enforcement on gatherings of 10 or more would remain. The focus for the NT police was instead on securing the border and ensuring people in quarantine were doing the right things in order to protect remote communities. 
  • Victoria – Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that Victoria had moved to ‘stage 3’ restrictions, with existing fines of $1,652 for individuals and $9,913 for businesses set to also apply to the new rules regarding 2 people gathering. 
  • SA – In South Australia, the Premier Steven Marshall has announced that those individuals failing to comply will receive a fine of $1000 and businesses $5000. These rules will be enforced by a special team of police set up for the purposes of checking up on those meant to be in isolation, ensuring businesses are following protocols and enforcing social distance measures.  
  • Tasmania – After confirming the first death from coronavirus this morning, Tasmania will also be legally enforcing the new restrictions with Premier Peter Gutwein announcing that they would be arresting those that did not comply as well as developing on-the-spot fines in the range of $750 – $1000.   
  • NSW – Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also signalled that NSW police will be enforcing these measures through legal means. With NSW Police empowered to issue $1000 on-the-spot fines and as well as having the option of arresting and charging people with an offence carrying a six-month jail term.
  • ACT – The ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has announced that while they will be focused on providing more education and cautions in the first phase, there would be a move towards increasing capacity to issue fines if it became necessary. 

As the situation is still developing, these rules will likely be updated. One thing is clear, they are not likely to ease up any time soon. Despite the number of new cases stabilising in NSW over the weekend, the only way to keep the situation under control for the sake of the health system will be continuing to reduce the rate and likelihood of community transmission by staying home. The question that needs to posed is to what extent will people continue to self-isolate, practice social distancing, and adhere to 2-person rule, for another 4 weeks in Australia? Will the threat of financial fine endure in its effectiveness or will community attitudes be the nudge that keeps us in place?

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