Victoria, ACT Declare State Of Emergency Over Coronavirus
Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have declared a state of emergency over coronavirus on Monday, as the country grapples with the rapidly evolving situation.
It is likely other states and territories could follow suit, with South Australia and Queensland already having declared public health emergencies over coronavirus.
Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, said the state of emergency would help to contain the spread of the virus and run for four weeks from 12pm on Monday.
“Make no mistake, the next few weeks and months will be tough for everyone, but we’re doing what is necessary to protect Victorians," he said on Monday.
The powers allow the Chief Health Officer to do whatever is necessary to protect public health.
Under a state of emergency, authorised officers can act to eliminate or reduce a serious risk by detaining people, restricting movement, preventing entry to premises, or through other measures that are considered reasonable to protect public health.
The powers can also be used in future to quarantine entire suburbs, businesses or professions – rather than just individuals.
Failing to comply with orders under the state of emergency will be an offence under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act.
The expanded powers mean people who don’t comply with a directive could receive a fine of up to $20,000. Fines for companies or organisations that don’t comply could be up to $100,000.
Mandatory instructions issued by the federal government include limiting gatherings to fewer than 500 people and for international arrivals to Australia to self-isolate for 14 days.
"There will be significant disruption, there will be significant difficulty caused by these orders and many events having to be cancelled," Andrews said.
A number of the state’s cultural institutions including the National Gallery of Victoria, the State Library and Museums Victoria have announced temporary closures, and events such as the Melbourne Comedy Festival and Melbourne Food and Wine Festival have already been postponed.
Victoria's Chief Health Officer Professor said they the state government had not yet decided whether schools would be closed as a result of the pandemic.
"People should do the right thing," Brett Sutton said.
"People should try and make a greater space between them and exclude themselves if they are unwell. They need to be at home, not at work or in public spaces."
Victoria's coronavirus tally now sits at 71 after 14 new cases were confirmed overnight.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has also declared a state of emergency in Canberra in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
It comes after Canberra health authorities confirmed the national capital's second case of coronavirus with a man in his 30s testing positive on Sunday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged people not to panic over Monday's announcement.
"A state of emergency is not a state of panic. A state of emergency puts in place special powers for State Governments to help stop the spread of health epidemic," Morrison told The Today Show.
"These actions have been coordinated between the states to put the measures in place so they're consistent across the country. 100 years ago we had the Spanish flu that is the sort of reference event," he continued.
"This is a one in 100 year event."
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