Strengthening Public Safety Amid the Threat of COVID-19

Hon Stephen Wade MLC  –  Minister for Health and Wellbeing

The State Government is acting to strengthen our public health laws through a set of measures which better equip South Australia to combat COVID-19, and similar threats in the future.

The amendments enhance the South Australian Public Health Act, which includes allowing for a warrant to be issued to detain a person if that person is considered to be engaging in conduct that creates a risk of spreading disease.
Premier Steven Marshall said that the changes are all about being prepared.

“There is no need to be alarmed. Part of strengthening our State’s protection is to make sure that our public health experts have the powers they need to protect South Australians,” Premier Marshall said.

“We know people are anxious, and I assure the people of South Australia that you are unquestionably our priority.”
Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said that during a public health incident, the ability to place orders on individuals quickly on the basis of the risk they may pose to the community, rather than proven contact with a case, can be critical to preventing the spread of infection.

“Our clinicians, led by Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO), are well-prepared for any scenario. While we hope for the best, we need to plan for the worst,” Minister Wade said.

“Key to being prepared is to ensure that our public health experts have the tools they need to be nimble and proactive in controlling any possible outbreak scenario.

“The limited amendments proposed to a range of sections under the Act will provide the CPHO greater capacity to rapidly respond and contain public health risks related to infectious diseases, while maintaining appropriate protections for individuals such as case reviews and the capacity to appeal to the courts.”

Proposed amendments to the Public Health Act include:

  • ALLOWING a more timely and rapid process for the Chief Public Health Officer to detain a person engaging in conduct that presents a risk to the public
  • ALLOWING detention, in urgent circumstances, where there have not been prior breaches or non-compliance, or the service of a direction.
    EXPANDING the application of controls under the Act to people who could have been exposed to a controlled notifiable condition – previously limited to people who have, or have been exposed to a case of, a controlled notifiable condition.
  • WHERE necessary, allow verbal orders or directions to require testing, counselling, or actions to prevent the spread of infection, or detention to be followed with a written notice.
  • CLARIFY that an order to remain at a specified place could include a hospital or quarantine facility.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the public health of South Australians was paramount, not only during the current COVID-19 outbreak but during any future public health incident.

“With these proposed changes, we will be able to provide a more rapid and timely response to public health risks related to infectious diseases,” Associate Professor Spurrier said.

“These changes will ensure where necessary, verbal orders or directions could be given, making our response quicker and safer for all South Australians.”

Last week, the Federal Government took steps to prepare our nation for a further escalation in the spread of the coronavirus disease.

The Marshall Liberal Government has reaffirmed its commitment to continue to work in lock step with the Commonwealth Government and health officials during this period, to ensure best practice is implemented.

There have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Australian. One South Australian is currently awaiting a test result for COVID-19.

A 24-year-old woman, who was a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, remains isolated in the Royal Adelaide Hospital in a stable condition.