As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State and Federal Governments have introduced a range of extraordinary measures in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus.

These restrictions and measures became effective in NSW as at 31 March 2020. The most significant change is that you cannot leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse to do so.


What is a reasonable excuse?

Under the  Public Health (COVID 19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 (NSW) (the Order) “a person must not, without reasonable excuse, leave the person’s place of residence”.

Schedule 1 of the Order outlines what is considered a ‘reasonable excuse’. These ‘excuses’ are as follows:

  1. Obtaining food or other goods or services for the personal needs of the household or other household purposes (including for pets) and for vulnerable persons.
  2. Travelling for the purposes of work if the person cannot work from the person’s place of residence.
  3. Travelling for the purposes of attending childcare (including picking up or dropping another person at childcare).
  4. Travelling for the purposes of facilitating attendance at a school or other educational institution if the person attending the school or institution cannot learn from the person’s place of residence.
  5. Exercising
  6. Obtaining medical care or supplies or health supplies or fulfilling carer’s responsibilities.
  7. Attending a wedding or a funeral (weddings are limited to 5 persons which includes the celebrant and funerals to 10 which includes the person conducting the service).
  8. Moving to a new place of residence (including a business moving to new premises) or between different places of residence of the person or inspecting a potential new place of residence.
  9. Providing care or assistance (including personal care) to a vulnerable person or providing emergency assistance.
  10. Donating blood.
  11. Undertaking any legal obligations.
  12. Accessing public services (whether provided by Government, a private provider or a non-Government organisation), including
    • social services, and
    • employment services, and
    • domestic violence services, and
    • mental health services, and
    • services provided to victims (including as victims of crime).
  13. For children who do not live in the same household as their parents or siblings or one of their parents or siblings—continuing existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children or siblings.
  14. For a person who is a priest, minister of religion or member of a religious order— going to the person’s place of worship or providing pastoral care to another person.
  15. Avoiding injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm.
  16. For emergencies or compassionate reasons.

Also, note that taking a holiday in a regional area is not a reasonable excuse.

Other restrictions and measures which have been implemented include:

  • You must practice social distancing in public (i.e. people should maintain at least 1.5 metres between themselves and others).
  • Public gatherings (indoor and outdoor) are limited to a maximum of two people.
  • Restaurants and cafes are restricted to takeaway and/or delivery only.
  • Certain non-essential businesses have been ordered to cease trading. These include pubs, gyms, cinemas, casinos, clubs, places of worship, amusement centres, indoor recreation facilities, galleries, museums, real estate auctions (attended in person), open inspections (except single person inspections by appointment), markets (except food markets), beauty therapists, spas, nail salons and massage parlours.
  • The following places have been directed to close: public swimming pools, gaming lounges, strip clubs, outdoor playground equipment or gym equipment in a public place and skate parks.
  • Weddings are limited to a maximum of 5 people (including the marriage celebrant).
  • Funerals are limited to a maximum of 10 people.
  • All international travellers arriving in Australia will be quarantined in a hotel for two weeks and will not be permitted to leave their room.
  • Occupiers or operators of premises that are outdoor spaces must not allow 500 or more persons to enter or stay on the premises.
  • Occupiers or operators of premises that are indoor spaces must not allow 100 or more persons to enter or stay on the premises.
  • Occupiers or operators of indoor or outdoor premises must ensure there is a 4 square metre space for each person on the premises.


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What are the penalties for not complying with the new directions?

Per Section 10 of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) it is an offence for a person to fail to comply with these directions, carrying a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 6 months and/or a fine of up to $11,000, and a further $5,500 fine each day the offence continues for individuals.

Corporations that fail to comply with a direction are liable to a fine of $55,000, and $27,500 each day the offence continues.

What happens if I breach the requirement to self-quarantine for 14 days?  

As of 29 March 2020, all passengers arriving in Australia from overseas will be required to self-quarantine in a hotel for 14 days.

Again, per the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW), if you fail to comply with this direction and are convicted, you could be fined up to $11,000 and/or receive a term of imprisonment of up to 6 months.

What if I live or work with, more than 2 people, is this a breach of the 2 -person rule?

There are exceptions to the 2-person rule. These exceptions include (but not limited to):

  • gatherings by members of the same household, and
  • gatherings which are essential for work and or education.

Key Takeaways

What is an essential gathering?

Schedule 2 of the Order provides a list of what is considered an ‘essential gathering’ and does not fall subject to the ‘2 person’ rule. These are as follows:

  1. A gathering at an airport that is necessary for the normal business of the airport
  2. A gathering for the purposes of or related to transportation, including in vehicles or at stations, platforms or stops or other public transportation facilities
  3. A gathering at a hospital or other medical or health service facility that is necessary for the normal business of the facility
  4. A gathering for the purposes of emergency services
  5. A gathering at a prison, correctional facility, youth justice centre or other place of custody
  6. A gathering at a disability or aged care facility that is necessary for the normal business of the facility
  7. A gathering at a court or tribunal
  8. A gathering at Parliament for the purpose of its normal operations
  9. A gathering at a supermarket, market that predominately sells food, grocery store or shopping centre (but not a retail store in a shopping centre other than a supermarket, market that predominately sells food or grocery store) that is necessary for the normal business of the supermarket, market, store or centre
  10. A gathering at a retail store (other than a supermarket, market that predominately sells food or grocery store) that is necessary for the normal business of the store
  11. A gathering at an office building, farm, factory, warehouse or mining or construction site that is necessary for the normal operation of the tenants within the building, farm, warehouse, factory or site
  12. A gathering at a school, university or other educational institution or child care facility that is necessary for the normal business of the school, university, institution or facility but does not include a school event that involves members of the community in addition to staff and students
  13. A gathering at a hotel, motel or other accommodation facility that is necessary for the normal operation of accommodation services at that hotel, motel or other facility
  14. A gathering at an outdoor space where 2 or more persons may be present for the purposes of transiting through the place, for example. Pitt Street Mall.

The team at Hamilton Janke Lawyers will continue to update you on the changes to the law in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

If you or someone you know needs advice on the new COVID-19 laws or representation due to an alleged breach, please contact the team at Hamilton Janke Lawyer 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 4038 1666.

Written By
Picture of James Janke
James Janke

James Janke is founding partner at Hamilton Janke Lawyers, and has more then decade of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. Admitted to both the Supreme Court of New South Wales and High Court of Australia