Leaving The House In NSW Without An Excuse Could Land You A Six-Month Prison Term

Bloody hell.

Anyone in NSW who roams around outside “without reasonable excuse” could find themselves on the pointy end of a six-month prison sentence, an $11,000 fine, or both, thanks to a strict new directive intended to stop people mingling amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Notably, it looks like heading to your partner’s place is temporarily off the cards.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement Order, which came into effect at midnight, means it’s effectively unlawful to leave the house except in specific circumstances.

The Order “directs that a person must not, without reasonable excuse, leave the person’s place of residence,” adding that “A person must not participate in a gathering in a public place of more than 2 persons.”

There are a few exceptions.

You can get groceries and household supplies. You can travel to your place of employment or education, if you can’t feasibly work or study from home. You can pick your kids up from school or childcare. You can seek medical attention, fulfill your duties as a carer, carry out legal obligations, move house, and even donate blood.

You can exercise outside, as long as you’re with no more than one other person or members of your household, exclusively.

It’s fine to attend public services like Centrelink, domestic violence support services, and mental health services. Plus, you can attend weddings and funerals — if they fit the previously established five- and ten-attendee limits, that is.

Family members who live between households won’t be kept apart, either: there are “continuing existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children or siblings.”

If you’re a “priest, minister of religion or member of a religious order,” you can travel to and from your place of worship and provide pastoral assistance to another person.

Still, all public gatherings that are not “essential for work or education” are banned, and hopping in the car after a 2am ‘U up?’ message is not on the list of valid excuses to head outside. Whether this leads to an uptick in sneaky supermarket or blood donation “dates” is yet to be seen.

In addition to the aforementioned penalties, repeat offenders can be fined $5500 for each day offending continues. It’s even harsher for companies, as “Corporations that fail to comply with a direction are liable to a fine of $55,000 and $27,500 each day the offence continues.”

It’s a major development, and a sign of the how NSW Police Commissioner Michael Fuller, who is now leading the state’s non-medical response to the crisis, intends to clamp down on the outbreak.

The message from NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard is clear: stay home. Sorry.