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COVID-19: Public health orders – what do I need to know?

This factsheet is part of a series from Legal Aid NSW that aims to help answer your questions about COVID-19 and everyday law.

You may be worried or confused about how COVID-19 will affect you and your everyday life. Sometimes a crisis can make legal problems worse or new problems might develop. Legal Aid NSW understands that there will be a lot of questions about money worries, fines, police, housing, Centrelink, employment, guardianship and mental health. This series of factsheets will give you helpful information and contacts to assist you to manage all the changes that are happening in our community.

What are the new public health order fines?

The NSW Government has issued public health orders to limit the spread of COVID-19. The orders have been issued under the Public Health Act.

The police have powers to give fines to people and corporations who don’t follow the new orders.

For individuals:

The police can:

  • Give you an on-the-spot fine for $1,000 if you don’t follow the orders.
  • Fine you another $5,500 for each day that you don’t follow the orders.

The court can:

  • Fine you up to $11,000 or give you 6 months imprisonment or both.

How can I follow the orders?

This is what you need to know about self-isolation, air travel, movement and gathering so that you can follow the new orders.


You must self-isolate if you:

  • have COVID-19
  • are a close contact of someone with COVID-19
  • are a returned traveller exempt from hotel quarantine
  • have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting results.
  • have been in Victoria in the past 14 days (see the Legal Aid NSW Border Closure factsheet for more information on who needs to self-isolate in this situation).

Self-isolate means that you:

  • must stay where the doctor has told you to be. This might be at home or at a medical facility.
  • must stay in that place until you are medically cleared of the virus.
  • cannot leave your home or place you are staying unless there is an emergency, or you need to get medical care.

No-one else can enter the place where you are self-isolating, unless they normally live there, or they are providing you with medical or emergency care.

For more information about how to self-isolate go to the NSW Health website.

Air Travel

If you have arrived in NSW by plane and you have been overseas in the last 14 days:

  • You must enter quarantine for at least 14 days. This period can extend up to 24 full days.
  • The government will organise your accommodation. This could be a hotel or hospital. You do not have a choice of where you stay.
  • People in quarantine who get tested for COVID-19 and the result is negative still need to remain for the quarantine period.
  • Quarantine period starts on the day you disembark into NSW and ends when (whichever is sooner):
    • At least 14 days have passed and you have been cleared through testing or
    • 24 full days have passed. A full day starts at 12:00 am (midnight) and ends at 12:00 am (midnight) on the following day.
  • You will not be allowed to leave quarantine before the 14 days unless directed by the Police Commissioner or there is an emergency that requires you to leave the facility.
  • If the end point of your trip is in another state or territory, you will have to do the quarantine in NSW before you can continue your trip.
  • People returning from overseas can be exempt from staying at a quarantine hotel if there are strong medical, health or compassionate grounds. It is urged that you seek an exemption with NSW Health before you travel. You should apply up to 2 weeks before the travel date.
  • Unaccompanied children (under the age of 18) who are being picked up by a parent or guardian at the airport are exempt from conducting quarantine in a government hotel and can self-isolate for 14 days at home.
  • The quarantine period applies to flight crew as well. Flight crews who arrive in NSW from overseas are allowed to quarantine at their residence or accommodation until their next flight out of NSW, or they need to undertake essential flight safety activities or the quarantine period ends (whichever is sooner).
  • People transiting in Australia for another international flight may not need to quarantine if their transit time is less than 8 hours and provided they stay in the transit zone. This will be possible only if  bags have been checked through to their next destination.
  • Overseas air arrivals will also be limited to 350 passengers each day, including a maximum of 30 passengers on each flight.

From 18 July 2020 the NSW Government will charge returning international travellers for their hotel quarantine accommodation. For more information see our factsheet: ‘COVID-19: Managing quarantine fees for international travellers’.


The following gathering activities are not permitted:

  • nightclubs, dance and music festivals (including using a residential premises for these gatherings).

Providing your personal details when visiting hospitality venues, significant events and religious services:

All people attending hospitality venues, significant events and religious services must sign-in by providing their contact details (name and phone number or email address and the time they entered the premises)

If the person is a member of a group attending the premises together, details can be provided for one adult member of the group (such as the person who is making the group booking). This contact person must, at the request of the Chief Health Officer, be able to provide the name and contact details of all other persons in the group.

The following gathering activities are permitted:

Premises or event type

Requirements for these types of venues

Aquariums, zoos and reptile parks

4 square metres per person

Beauty, nail, waxing, tanning salons, spas, tattoo and massage parlour premises

4 square metres per person

Betting agencies

4 square metres per person

Businesses such as banks, post office, hairdressers

4 square metres per person

Caravan parks and camping grounds

4 square metres per person

Commercial vessels used for scuba diving, snorkelling, marine animal tours, hosting functions

4 square metres per person

Community centres and halls

4 square metres per person and a maximum of 20 people at a scheduled class or organised event. Excluding the person running the class or event and the parents, guardians or carers of any participants.

Community sporting activities (including training)

4 square metres per person and maximum of 500 people including players, referees/umpires, coaches and spectators.

Corporate events (conferences, functions and corporate events)

4 square metres per person or a maximum of 150 people.

Drive in cinemas

4 square metres per person

Entertainment facilities (Cinemas, theatres, concert halls)

4 square metres per person

Food and drink premises (Restaurants, cafes and food courts)

4 square metres per person

Funerals and memorial services and gatherings following funerals

4 square metres per person or a maximum of 100 people

Gym and fitness training facilities

4 square metres per person with a maximum of 20 people per gym or recreational class. Excluding the instructor of the class

Holiday homes and short-term rentals

Up to 20 people allowed, unless all of people staying in the home are from the same household

Hospitality venues – casino, function centres, food and drink premises, micro-breweries, small distilleries, cellar door premises, pubs, registered clubs and small bars (see also Corporate Events, funerals, memorial and religious services and weddings)

One person per 4 square metres of space or 300 people, whichever is the lesser.

If there are more than 250 people, a COVID-19 Safety Hygiene Marshal must be present on the premises.

No individual bookings or reservations for a group of more than 10 people.

As far as practicable all persons are to remain seated.

For significant events using the venue see restrictions listed under corporate events, funerals, religious services and weddings)

Libraries, museums and galleries

4 square metres per person

Markets – no food markets

4 square metres per person

National parks and state forests

Open with no capacity limitations. People need to exercise physical distancing

Outdoor gatherings

Up to 20 people, including children. This does not apply to members of the same household, people engaged in work or providing care or assistance to vulnerable people.

Outdoor playground and exercise equipment

Up to 20 people or 4 square metres per person.

Places of public worship, funeral home or crematorium

4 square metres per person or a maximum of 100 people (whichever is lesser).

Pubs and Clubs (including small bars, cellar doors, breweries, casinos, karaoke bars, function centres and strip clubs)

Must have whichever is the lesser:

  • The number of persons equivalent   to one person per 4 square metres of space in the premises, or
  • 300 persons.
  • And, no group entering the   premises or reservation bookings of more than 10 people
  • Persons remain seated

Recreational facilities (major) including theme parks, sports stadiums, showgrounds and race courses with a capacity of over 500 people

Are allowed 25% of their capacity or 10,000 people in total whichever is the lesser. Events must be ticketed and seated.

Recreational facilities (indoor) including bowling alleys and ice rinks with a capacity of 500 people or less

4 square metres per person

Regional or interstate travel

  • Visitors from state and   territories, except Victoria, can enter NSW for a holiday or for work   purposes.
  • There are no   NSW government restrictions for travel across other states (except Victoria).
  • However,   each state or territory will have its own entry requirement and travel   restrictions.
  • NSW residents travelling   interstate must comply with any border rules of the state or territory you   are entering or leaving.

No limitations for travel within NSW.

There are temporary travel restrictions for Victoria.

People entering NSW from Victoria will need a NSW border entry permit and may need to self-isolate for 14 days from arrival in NSW.

Your permit will specify your conditions on entry to NSW like having to self-isolate.

For more information see our factsheet ‘NSW and Victoria border closure: what you need to know’.

Religious services (see also Places of public worship and Funerals)

4 square metres per person or a maximum of 100 people

Sex services premises

4 square metres per person

Sporting events (see community sporting activities)

4 square metres per person and maximum of 500 people including players, referees/umpires, coaches and spectators.

Swimming Pools indoor and outdoor

4 square metres per person

Visiting another household

Up to 20 visitors at any one time, including children. Members of the same household are not counted as visitors

Wedding ceremonies and gatherings following weddings at non-residential premises

4 square metres per person or a maximum of 150 people.

Wedding ceremonies on residential premises

Up to 20 guests. Excluding the wedding couple, people conducting or assisting with the ceremony, a photographer and videographer, if one person per 4 square metres can be ensured

What does physical distancing mean?

Physical distancing means that you should not stand close to people, touch people or gather in groups.

Things you can do to physical distance are:

  • Don’t shake hands, hug or kiss as a greeting.
  • Keep 1.5 metres between yourself and other people, where possible.

You will not break the law if you forget to do these things. But it is very important for our health and safety that you try to distance yourself from other people at all times.

What are my options if I get a fine?

The options to deal with your fine are:

  • Pay the fine or organise with Revenue NSW to make instalment payments over time
  • Ask for a review of the fine through MyPenalty on the Revenue NSW website
  • Elect to dispute the fine in the Local Court through MyPenalty on the Revenue NSW website

If you get a Public Health Order fine you should get legal advice early, so you know the best option for you.

What if I can’t pay my fine by the due date?

If you can’t pay your fine you have the option to:

  • Make instalment payments over time. These can be small payments each fortnight if you are in financial hardship or on a Centrelink benefit.
  • Clear your fines through a Work and Development Order (WDO) if you are eligible
  • Request to have the fine waived by Revenue NSW if you have serious financial, medical or domestic problems.

What will happen if I don’t pay my fine?

If you don’t pay or make arrangements to pay your fine, Revenue NSW have enforcement powers to:

  • Suspend your driver licence
  • Cancel your car registration
  • Take money from your bank account or wages
  • Get the Sheriff to seize and sell things you own
  • Make a community service order

Each time Revenue NSW takes enforcement action they add fees to your fine. So don’t ignore a fine you can’t pay, get help quickly.

If you have received a NSW public health order fine or charge, contact LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 for free legal help.

Where can I find more information?

For the most up to date information on what you can and cannot do under the rules go to the NSW government website.

If you have received a Public Health Order fine and want to discuss your options directly with Revenue NSW you can contact them on (02) 7808 6934.

Redfern Legal Centre has a Public Health Laws and Police Powers factsheet on their website.

For COVID-19 health questions or to check symptoms call 1800 020 080 (open 24/7).

How can I get help?

For free legal help call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 or call your local Legal Aid NSW office.

There is also a series of factsheets about COVID-19 and the law available on the Legal Aid NSW website to assist you to manage all the changes that are happening in our community.

If you need an interpreter, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and ask for LawAccess NSW. If you find it hard to hear or speak, call the National Relay Service on 133 677 and ask for LawAccess NSW or visit www.relayservice.gov.au.

This factsheet is intended as a general guide to the law. Do not rely on this information as legal advice. We recommend you talk to a lawyer about your situation. This information is correct at the time of writing, however, it may change.

CVCIV02 | 29 July 2020 | © Legal Aid NSW