LIFE DURING COVID-19 – WHAT CAN I STILL DO? AND WILL I BE FINED?

May 6, 2020

The “do’s” and the “don’t’s” with regard to social distancing, the exceptions and the penalties

At the start of this year, no one ever thought that normal everyday activities such as going out to the movies, the gym, or your favourite restaurant, are now banned.However, in March 2020 the WA government declared a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency in response to Covid-19.  As such, this has allowed the government to pass new legislation with respect to social distancing.  Now, social distancing has not only become integral to combating the spread of Covid-19, butalso “the new norm” when it comes to everyday life.

Western Australia has been extremely lucky.  The number of people infected with Covid-19 and the number of deaths recorded, are far lower when compared to the eastern states and other countries around the world.  Which is why some of the rules and restrictions regarding social distancing in Western Australia, are different or “relaxed.”Schools are now open for all parents and carers who choose to send their children to school, bans regarding takeaway alcohol are lifted, and “gatherings” of up to 10 people are now permitted.

However, the different social distancing rules in WA, still leave many of us wondering what are the rules, what are the exceptions, and what are the penalties.

Social distancing and good hygiene explained – what is this and how is this practiced?

 

Social distancing (also known as physical distancing) is generally, the practice of limiting the contact you have with other people, and to maintain good hygiene.

According to the WA Government’s website for community advice, social distancing includes:

  • Staying home if you’re sick. Do not go to work or school
  • Keep 1.5 metres away from others;
  • Don’t make unnecessary physical contact with others. Avoid physical greetings, such as handshakes, hugs and kisses;
  • use tap and pay instead of cash;
  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds (with soap and water or an alcohol based sanitiser; and
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use a flexed elbow or a tissue and if you use a tissue, dispose of it immediately and appropriately

The advice from the WA Government is that all Western Australians should continue to practise appropriate social distancing and stay home, except for:

  • shopping for what you need – food, takeaway, and necessary supplies;
  • medical or health care needs, including compassionate requirements;
  • exercise including outdoor personal training (up to 10 people only) without shared equipment whether there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person;
  • work, training or university, where remote learning is unavailable;
  • childcare or school;
  • non-contact recreational activities such as private picnics in the park, fishing, boating, hiking and camping − all in compliance with travel restrictions and the 10-person rule
  • home opens and display village openings, with appropriate record keeping and hygiene practices in place, and in compliance with the 10-person rule.

What’s still closed or prohibited (for now)

Under the Directions several “affected places” and “prohibited activities” are required to remain closed for now.

Given the amount of news coverage and “closed” signs you have probably seen everywhere, this should come as no surprise.  Here is a summarised list of all the non-essential businesses, premises places or activities that are not permitted or are closed (for now):

Category of business, premises or place Type of business, premises or place that is closed and prohibited from operating
Retail Real Estate Auctions
Auctions Houses
Gun Shops
Beauty and personal care services

Beauty therapy
Tanning
Waxing
Nail Salons
Tattoo parlours
Spa and massage parlors
Saunas
Bathhouses
Wellness Centres
Float centres

 

Entertainment venues

Cinemas
Nightclubs
Pubs and Bars
Adult entertainment venues (including strip clubs, brothels and sex on premises venues)
Casinos, gaming or gambling venues
Amusement parks and arcades
Play centres (indoor and outdoor)
Perth Zoo

 

Leisure and Recreation Cinemas
Gyms
Indoor sporting centres
Health clubs
Fitness Centres
Yoga
Barre and spin facilities
Saunas
Bathhouses and wellness centres
Playgrounds in indoor or outdoor spaces
Skate parks
Outside gyms in public places
Playing contact sports (no AFL this year)
Non-residential institutions

Cinemas
Galleries
Museums
Historic sites
Libraries (however, the collection of books or other media is permitted)
Local government facilities that are not essential (eg libraries, swimming pools, community halls and youth centres that are not providing an essential service)

 

And what about travelling within
WA or outside of WA?

 Under the Quarantine (Closing the Border) Directions, entering Western Australia is now no longer permitted.  However, exemptions apply to:

  • senior Government officials in the course of duties
  • members of the Commonwealth Parliament and their staff
  • active military personnel on duty in WA
  • specialist skills not available in WA
  • emergency service workers
  • judicial officers or staff members of a court, tribunal or commission
  • persons carrying out a function under a law of the Commonwealth
  • health services when requested by the Chief Health Officer of the Department of Health
  • FIFO workers and their family members
  • urgent and essential medical treatment
  • attending a funeral of a relative or visiting a relative who is critically ill or whose death is imminent
  • transport, freight and logistics (not including airline and maritime crew members)
  • compassionate grounds
  • otherwise seeking approval to enter WA.

Given these directions, it should come as no surprise that most flights out of WA are now grounded (so say goodbye to that Bali trip that was booked).

Under the Directions, intrastate travel outside designated regions is also no longer permitted.  These regions are:

  • Perth and Peel
  • South West
  • Great Southern
  • Goldfields-Esperance
  • Mid-West
  • Wheatbelt
  • Gascoyne
  • Pilbara and
  • Kimberley

Exemptions for intrastate travel apply for:

  • people travelling to work
  • attending medical appointments
  • transporting freight
  • those who do not have access to groceries or supplies within their region
  • returning to a place of residence
  • attending school or an educational institution where necessary
  • caring for family members
  • compassionate grounds.

 What are the rules with “gatherings”

Under theClosure and Restriction (Limit the Spread) Directions (WA)dated 7 April 2020 (“the Directions”):

  • A person who owns, controls or operates premises in the State of Western Australiamust not allow aprohibited gathering to occur on the premises;
  • A person must not organise a prohibited gathering on premises in the State of Western Australia; and
  • A person must not attend a prohibited gathering on premises in the State of WesternAustralia.

 

 A prohibited gathering means:

  • a gathering of more than ten (10) persons in a single undivided indoor space or a single undivided outdoor space that is a public place at the same time; or
  • a gathering of two (2) or more persons in a single undivided indoor space or a single undivided outdoor space at the same time (whether or not the space is a public place), where there is not at least 4 square metres of space for each person at the gathering,
The exception with “households”

A prohibited gathering though, does not include an indoor or outdoor place where everyone in the gathering is a member of the same household.

Ahousehold means two or more persons who usually reside at the same place, irrespective of whether those persons are related to each other.  Some of the examples listed in the Directions are as follows:

  • Example 1: four university students who share a house are members of the same household, even though they are not related to each other
  • Example 2: Seven members of a family who live in the same house are members of the same household even though more than 2 generations live in that house (such as grandparents, parents and children)
  • Example 3: Three members of a family who live in the same house and a boarder who usually resides there are members of the same household, even though only some of them are related to each other.
  • Example 4: a child who usually moves between the child’s father’s home and the child’s mother’s home on a week-about basis is part of the father’s household when the child is living with the father and is part of the mother’s household when the child is living with the mother.

So what can I still do?Simply put, the following is allowed:

  • members of the same household can live together and spend time with each other doing non-contact recreational activities (eg private picnics in the park etc);
  • Gatherings of up to 10 people – this means you can meet with your friends and families for a barbeque, picnic, going to the beach, exercising together, boating and attend weddings – provided there is at least 4 square metres for each person at the gathering; and
  • Gatherings for the purpose of providing care or assistance (including personal care) to a vulnerable person or providing emergency assistance.

 What is not permitted is “gatherings:”

  • of more than 10 people; and
  • of two (2) or more persons where there is not at least 4 square metres of space for each person at the gathering,

 Other exceptions to “10 person gatherings” rule – “Essential Services”

Most services and premises that are required or deemed essential, are an exception to the “10 person gathering rule” and are still operating.  “Gatherings” that are required for the operation of essential services are also an exception to the “10 person gathering” rule (eg – lining up to board a train or to collect children from school).

However, these services may enforce their own restrictions so that patrons observe social distancing practices and remain at least 1.5 metres away from one another.  You have probably already noticed this (eg – the number of people allowed in aisles at Bunnings, school pickups and drops offs, etc).  Services may also be reduced as a result of the reduction of patrons using the facilities.

Here is a summary of the essential services and premises that are still operating:

Category of service premise or place Type of service, activity, premise or place that is still operating and is not a “prohibited gathering” Restrictions
Transport Normal business of an airport
Public transportation, including in vehicles (eg. buses, trains, taxis, ride share services, charter vechiles and similar services)
Public transportation facilities such as stations, platforms or stops
Outdoor spaces for the purpose of transiting through the space (eg walking through Forrest Place, Perth to get to the train station) Indoor spaces for the purpose of transiting through the space (eg Perth Busport, an elevator or lift)
No restrictions
However, these facilities may enforce their own restrictions so that patrons comply with social distancing practices and remain at least 1.5 metres away from one another. Public transport services are also reduced.
Medical / Health A medical or health service facility (eg hospitals, GP clinics, dentists, etc) Visiting hours at public hospitals have been tightened to limit the flow of people to protect patients and staff:
• Children under 16 are not able to visit patients
• Hospital hours are limited to two hours a day – on in the morning and one in the evening
• All adult patients, including those in maternity wards, are restricted to two visitors per day; the same two visitors may visit morning and evening.
• Visitors to paediatric patients must be the same family members each day.
• No visitors are allowed to see confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus adult inpatients or COVID-19 coronavirus inpatients under investigation.
Disability / Aged Care facility Disability or aged care facility that is necessary for the normal business of the facility Specific restrictions and Directions are in place on visits to aged care facilities. Visitors and staff (including visiting workers) should not enter the facility if:
• they have returned from overseas in the last 14 days;
• they have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 coronavirus in the last 14 days;
• they have a fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath);
• if they have not had an up-to-date vaccination against influenza.
Aged care facilities have also been advised to implement the following measures for restricting visits and visitors, including limiting visits to:
• a short duration
• one care and support visit per day with a maximum of two visitors at one time
• a maximum of two immediate social supports (family members, close friends) or professional service or advocacy at one time, per day
• emergency management, law enforcement or otherwise responding to an emergency (for example a police officer, fire fighter or ambulance officer)
• providing goods or services for the effective operation of the facility.
Emergency Services For the purpose of emergency services (eg. Department Fire and Emergency Services, WA Police etc) No restrictions
However, social distancing practices should be complied with.
Prisons Prisons
Detention Centres
Other place of custody for the purposes of or related to the operation of that place of custody
No restrictions
However, social distancing practices should be complied with.
Political / Legal institutions Parliament for the purposes of its normal operations
Courts or tribunals
However, these facilities may enforce their own restrictions so that patrons comply with social distancing practices and remain at least 1.5 metres away from one another.
Food and retail Food Markets
Supermarkets
Grocery stores
Retail stores;
Shopping Centres
Bottle shops (where takeaway alcohol is purchased)
No restrictions.
However, businesses or premises may choose to close, or enforce their own restrictions so that patrons comply with social distancing practices and remain at least 1.5 metres away from one another.
Places of employment An office building
Factory
Mining site (including mining site accommodation)
Construction Site
Other place of work
Gatherings that are necessary for the normal business of those premises.

No restrictions.

However, places of employment may choose to closeor enforce their own restrictions so that employees comply with social distancing practices and remain at least 1.5 metres away from one another.

School / Educational institution / Childcare facility Schools
Universities
Educational Institution
Childcare facility that is necessary for the normal business of the facility
No restrictions.
However, schools, universities, educational institutions and child care facilities that involve members of the community in addition to staff, students or children are taken to be unnecessary for the normal business of the facility (eg school assemblies with parents, sporting events, parent – teacher events, open days etc).
Further, schools, universities, educational institutions and child care facilities may enforce their own restrictions so that social distancing practices are complied with. Some childcare facilities may also choose to remain closed.
Accommodation A hotel or motel
Other accommodation facility that is necessary for the normal operation of accommodation services
No restrictions.
However, businesses or premises may choose to close, or enforce their own restrictions so that patrons comply with social distancing practices and remain at least 1.5 metres away from one another.
Places of worship
(eg. Churches, temples, mosques etc)

Weddings
Funerals
Religious activities
Live streaming, or recording for later broadcast or publication on television, radio, the internet or social media

 

The “10 person gathering rule” must be complied with, and that there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person at the gathering.

And everything else that’s still open or allowed (non-essential services or activities)?

You would have also noticed that some non-essential businesses, premises or activities are still permitted, provided that the “10 person” gathering rule is complied with.  Some non-essential businesses are also required to abide by certain restrictions.

Here is a summary of the non-essential services, premises,
places and activities that are allowed
Category of business, premises or place Type of business, premises or place that is still operating and is not a “prohibited gathering” Restrictions
Food and Drink Cafes
Restaurants
Food Courts
Food vans
Bottleshops (where takeaway alcohol is purchased)
Gatherings that are necessary for the normal business of those premises (eg. waiting in ques to collect takeaway food etc).
Takeaway and home delivery only
Beauty and personal care services Hairdressing / Barbering
Remedial massage
Chinese and alternative medicines / therapies (eg acupuncture)
A distance of at least 1.5 metres is kept between each hairdresser or barber and customer and every other hairdresser or barber and customer in the place where the service is being provided.
As long as such treatment is not provided from an “affected place” e.g. a massage parlour or a gym.
As long as such practices do not operate from an “affected place” e.g. a wellness centre or beauty parlour
Real Estate Home opens and display homes Appropriate record keeping must be adhered to and compliance with the “10 person gathering rule” and social distancing rules.
Entertainment venues Concert venues, theatres, arenas, auditoriums, stadiums

These entertainment venues must remain closed to the public.
However, live streaming or recording of a performance is permitted, provided the “10 person gathering” rules is complied with, and there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person.

 

Sports

Golf courses
Tennis Courts
Social sporting-based activities which does not ordinarily involve some or all of the participants coming into contact with each other. (eg. cricket, golf, lawn bowls, tennis, horse racing)

 

Non-contact training, for sports that would ordinarily involve contact (eg football, basketball, soccer, netball)

The “10 person gathering” rule must be complied with, and there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person.

Eg – kicking a ball to one another is permitted, provided the “10 person gathering” rule is complied with, and there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person. Playing contact sports is still prohibited.

Other leisure and recreational activities

Community halls, recreation centres and youth clubs

Bootcamps and personal training – operating either indoor or outdoor
Beaches
National parks
Non-contact recreational activities (picnis in the park, fishing, boating, hiking, camping)

Community halls, recreation centres and youth clubs are required to close, unless it is being used for an essential service (eg food bank, homeless service etc)

The “10 person gathering” rule must be complied with, and there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person.

The penalties, and how many people
have been fined so far?

Under the Directions, the penalty for not complying with:

  • the “10 person gathering” rule;”
  • non-compliance with the relevant restrictions if operating a non-essential service;
  • continuing to operate a prohibited activity or affected area; or
  • travelling outside of your designated region without an exemption;

is a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals, and $250,000 for businesses.  Police officers also have the power to issue $1,000 on the spot fines.

As far as we know, the WA Police have not yet issued any on the spot fines for non-compliance of the social distancing directions.

In summary

Life during Covid-19 has also seen a sweeping change in the way many businesses and services operate.  Working from home has now become a real viable option for many employees, court appearances by phone are now more accessible than ever, and video conferencing or live streaming is now becoming the norm to conduct an array of activities – from work meetings, to work drinks to yoga classes and more.

If the number of people infected with Covid-19 remains low, then it is likely that over time, WA will see further restrictions “relaxed,” andother non-essential services like gyms, cinemas, bars and other non-essential services will reopen.

However, just because WA has seen some of the rules “relaxed,” does not mean that social distancing measures should not be complied with.  As Premier Mark McGowan has said, “WA is in a unique position, our isolation is now our best defence, we need to use it to the best of our advantage.”

Having said that, it is reassuring to know that going for a run and getting a kebab are still permitted by our Premier.

Written by Mila Mortimer, Senior Associate at Frichot Lawyers.

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