The COVID Law Monitor project covers changes in legislation, directives and emergencies powers that affect civil liberties and freedoms of people in Australia across all jurisdictions. There have been significant changes in legislation and policy in other areas such as social security, taxation and economic management and industry, and while important, these changes fall out of scope of this project.


New and Amended Northern Territory Laws 

 

Last update: 27 May 2020

Contents

1. Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT)

1.1 Background

1.2 Quarantine under the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT)

1.3 Coughing and Spitting under the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT)

1.4 Directions under the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT)

 

1. Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT)

1.1 Background

Following a declaration of an emergency due to COVID-19, the Chief Health Officer has the power to make directions under section 52 of the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT) that the Chief Health Officer considers necessary, appropriate or desirable to alleviate the public health emergency stated in the emergency declaration. The Chief Health Officer can also delegate authority to authorised officers under the Act.

Previously, a public health emergency declaration could only be in force for 5 days and extended for another one or more further periods of 5 days. However both of these possible durations have been amended by the Emergency Legislation Amendment Act 2020 to 90 days.

The Chief Health Officer has the power to take actions including:

- reducing, removing or destroying the public health risk causing or threatening to cause the emergency;

- issuing warnings in relation to the emergency;

- segregating or isolating persons in an area or at a particular place;

- evacuating persons from an area or a particular place;

- preventing persons from accessing or entering into an area or a particular place; and

- controlling the movement of vehicles within an area.

The directions the Chief Health Officer may give include directing:

- a person to undergo a medical examination of a general nature or a stated kind, immediately or within the period stated;

- a stated person to remain in, or move to or from, a stated area or place immediately or within a stated period;

- a stated thing to be seized or destroyed; or

- a stated person to provide oral or written information relating to the emergency.

1.2 Quarantine under Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT)

Under section 52(1) of the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT), people can be required to quarantine after entering the Northern Territory.  The insertion of section 52A means that people can be charged a fee for quarantine, which is recoverable as a debt due to the Northern Territory.  Regulation 4A of the Public and Environmental Health Regulations 2014 (NT) states that the maximum fee that can be charged is $10,000.

Section 10 of the Public and Environmental Health Regulations 2014 (NT) inserts ‘authorised officer’ as a person who may reasonably believe a person has committed an infringement notice offence, and give an infringement notice.

1.3 Coughing and Spitting under the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT)

The insertion of section 113A into the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT) creates an offence for a person intentionally coughing, spitting or expectorating on or at another person.

Strict liability applies when the person is a police officer, emergency worker (and workers of the like), and absolute liability to the fear of a reasonable person.

This is an infringement notice offence, and an authorised officer can give an infringement notice to a person who they reasonably believe the person has committed the offence.

1.3.1 Exceptions

No exceptions are applicable.

1.3.2 Penalties 

The maximum penalty for this offence is 100 penalty units ($15,700).

1.4 Directions under the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT)

At present, the following directions are in force:

Direction 5 2020 - Directions for Assistance of Police Officers: which requires police officers who are authorised officers under section 76(1)(f) of the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT) to assist the Chief Health Officer in exercising their powers.

Direction 7 - Directions for Infected Persons: which requires a person who is notified by an authorised officer or health practitioner that they are infected with COVID-19 to travel directly to medical treatment or remain isolated until notified by the Chief Health Officer (or delegate) that they no longer need to isolate.

Direction 21 - Directions for Potentially Infected Persons: As of 16 April 2020, and in force for remainder of public health emergency declaration, and any extensions. This direction requires a person who a medical officer notifies to directly go to a specified place and to remain isolated there until told in writing by them or the CHO or delegate.  The person must not leave except for an emergency or for obtaining medical care. This can be directed if the medical officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the person is infected by COVID-19 or if they know the person has been in close contact with a person whom the officer knows or suspects on reasonable grounds is infected, and they consider it necessary for a test to be done. If the person is informed that they have COVID-19, this direction does not apply to them and Direction 7 does instead.

Direction 22 - Directions for Territory border restrictions: As of 17 April 2020, and in force for remainder of public health emergency declaration, and any extensions. 

- Every person entering the Territory must in written or electronic form approved by CHO, declare details of places where person has been during 30 days prior to their arrival at the Territory, their contact information, and details of where the person intends to stay.

- The form must be submitted to a police officer at place of entry or to another person in another manner approved by CHO.

- Every person must submit to a screening procedure for COVID-19 conducted by a police officer.

- Any person entering the Territory from a place outside must go directly to place specified by CHO after entry and remain there for 14 days.

- For an unaccompanied child, the specified place is their residence or another place suitable.  The child must practice social distancing, and any adult quarantined with the child must also remain quarantined in that place for 14 days.

- Any person quarantined must not leave except for obtaining medical care, testing for COVID-19 or in an emergency, and must not permit any other person from entering unless for medical or emergency purposes.

- Social distancing measures means taking all reasonable steps to sleep in a room separate from anyone else, staying at least 1.5m away from any other person, contacting the COVID-19 Hotline or a medical practitioner if they have any symptoms, and complying with any directions given by the COVID-19 Hotline or a medical practitioner.

Exception:

Certain classes of people are exempt (e.g. police officers, lawyers, paramedics).

Direction 24 - Directions for Aged Care Facilities: As of 23 April 2020, and in force for remainder of public health emergency declaration and any extensions.

- A person must not enter or remain on the premises of an aged care facility unless the person is an employee, providing goods or services to the facility, providing medical goods, a legal practitioner, providing care and support, providing end of life support to a resident etc.

- A person who has been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19 must not enter or remain on the premises of an aged care facility within 14 days of the contact.

- A person who has a body temperature of over 37.5 degrees, has coronavirus symptoms, has not been vaccinated this year against influenza if the vaccination was available to the person, or is under the age of 16, must not enter the premises.

- A person providing care and support to a resident must not remain on the premises for longer than two hours a day.

- The proprietor of an aged care facility must take all reasonable steps to ensure that visits by persons providing care and support to a resident are limited to one person alone, or two persons together, per day, per resident of the facility, and that a person prohibited from entering does not do so.

Direction 25 - Gatherings: -revokes Direction 23 - Directions for Gatherings, dated 20 April 2020, as of 1 May 2020.  It appears there is no current restriction on the number of people allowed to gather outside.

Direction 27 - Amendment to COVID-19 Directions No 22: This direction allows an Australian lawyer to enter the Territory if entering for the purpose of appearing in court in circumstances in which appearance in person is required. 

Direction 29 - Directions for physical distancing: As of 1 May 2020, and remaining in force while the public health emergency declaration is in force (and for periods of extension). People must comply with physical distancing principles (currently 1.5 metres) when outside. Authorised officers are not to charge people or give an infringement notice for not complying with the direction unless the authorised officer has directed the person comply and given them an opportunity to do so, and the person still has not complied.

Direction 30 - Directions to close certain places, businesses, services and activities: As of 15 May 2020, this direction revokes Direction 28 requiring persons to close places, activities and services designated in paragraph 5 unless otherwise stated elsewhere in the direction. This new direction reduces the amount of places, businesses and activities that are restricted, and imposes safety measure requirements, such as mandatory hand sanitizer and social distancing on those businesses act activities that may open. The following places remain closed to the public: casinos, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, music halls, dance halls, nightclubs, amusement venues, amusement parks, beauty parlours, tattoo studios, and strip clubs.

Direction 31 - 2020 Commercial Vessels – Crew Directions: These directions make orders for commercial vessels, other than cruise ships, to declare and report to authorities where they have travelled, and to quarantine on the vessel or other accommodation.

Direction 32 - Territory Border Restrictions: These directions make orders for the declaration, screening and quarantining of all persons entering the Territory. Those excluded from these requirements include military personnel, member of Parliament and those required for essential reasons to arrive in the NT.

Direction 35 - Directions to Close Certain Places, Businesses, Activities and Services and Directions for Safety Measures at Reopened Places, Businesses, Activities and Services: This direction revokes and replaces the COVID-19 Directions 33 and 34.  This direction orders the closure of some businesses such as casinos, cinemas, nightclubs, amusement parks, beauty salons and strip clubs. Any business or place that is not directed to close and is able to re-open must submit a COVID-19 safety plan checklist, enforce social distancing and provide hand sanitiser. Restaurants must not seat more than 10 guests at a table. It also requires that members of the public must comply with measures businesses put in place in accordance with the Direction.

1.4.1 Penalties

Under section 56 of the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT) it is an offence for a person to engage in conduct that contravenes the emergency declaration or any direction from the Chief Health Officer. 

The person is at fault if they intentionally engage in the conduct and are reckless as to whether the conduct would result in a contravention of the declaration or direction, without reasonable excuse. The maximum penalty is 400 penalty units ($62,800).

 


We can’t do this work without you.
Our COVID-19 Monitor Project is shining a spotlight on laws and rules that are being rapidly introduced across Australia.
Please donate to enable us to continue this vital work.

donate button


 

For people who have an experience with the policing of covid measures you would like to report you can do so at this website: covidpolicing.org.au. You can find suggestions for legal support here.