With Greater Sydney back in lockdown, the ever-fluctuating COVID-19 situation has once again resulted in various breaches of Public Health orders.
NSW Health Minister for Health and Medical Research, Brad Hazzard has enacted the lockdown pursuant to his powers under section 7 of the Public Health Act 2010.
The order is the ‘Public Health (COVID-19 Greater Sydney) Order (No 2) Amendment Order 2021’ and will be in place until at least 9 July 2021.
Additionally the ‘Public Health (COVID-19 Mandatory Face Coverings) Order (No 3) 2021’ is also currently in force.
Recently, officers from The Hume Police District attended a food store on Bowral Street, Bowral, following reports that staff and customers were not complying with Public Health Orders.
They observed that those in the store were not wearing face masks whilst inside the premises.
It is reported that signs outside of the ‘health’ food store banned anyone from entering the store if they were wearing a mask or if they had been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
The 62-year-old manager of the store stated that she had “no intentions” of complying with the current orders and was arrested after refusing to provide police her details.
Subsequently, a female customer, aged 61, entered the store not wearing a face mask.
She refused to put on a face mask or leave the store, leading to her arrest.
As officers escorted the women outside to a police vehicle, a 63-year-old man confronted them.
He continued to yell at the officers before pulling down the face mask of a sergeant.
He was subsequently arrested, with the trio then taken to Southern Highlands Police Station.
He was granted conditional bail to appear at Moss Vale Local Court on Tuesday 3 August 2021.
The two women were released from police custody, with the 61-year-old issued a $200 penalty infringement notice for not wear fitted face covering when in indoor area of retail/business premises.
The owners of the store have allegedly been posting anti-vax conspiracy theories online.
Further charges and infringements are expected with inquiries continuing into additional Public Health Order breaches.
In Greater Sydney, persons in indoor areas such as retail outlets, businesses, places of public worship and residential aged care facilities must wear masks.
This is also applicable to those who take public transport, including when the person is at a public transport waiting area.
A police officer or authorised officer may issue a penalty infringement notice of $200 to any person if it appears to the officer that the person has failed to wear a fitted face covering in specified circumstances, as outlined in schedule 4 of the Public Health Regulation 2012 (NSW).
Exceptions include those aged 12 years or under, and those with a physical or mental health illness or condition, or disability, that makes wearing a fitted face covering unsuitable.
Furthermore, one is permitted to remove a mask if they are eating or drinking, communicating with another person who is deaf or hard of hearing, or because of an emergency, among other circumstances outlined in clause 7 of the Order.
For businesses, fines of up to $1,000 may apply if an individual operator of a hospitality venue in Greater Sydney fails to ensure that all people working there comply with the direction.
If this rule is breached by a corporation, the on-the-spot fine is up to $5,000.
Notably, a penalty infringement notice does not result in a criminal record.
Nonetheless, a person issued with a fine may seek to dispute it in court. Within ‘court-electing’ the matter, it will then be decided by a Magistrate.
However, this may lead to the imposition of a penalty that may be greater than the initial fine upon a finding of guilt.
This is as the court has the discretion to impose a maximum penalty of up to $11,000 fine or 6 months imprisonment, or both, pursuant to pursuant to section 10 of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).
Furthermore, in the event that it was a continuing offence, a further $5,500 for each day the offence continued may be applicable.
For a corporation, this fine grows to $55,000 fine, or in case of the offence continuing, a further $27,500 fine for each day the offence continues.
Click here for an outline on the police powers to arrest for breaching a coronavirus public health order.