State’s Chief Health Officer handed unprecedented powers
NEW legislation will give sweeping powers to the state's chief health officer to regulate people's behaviour in any way necessary to protect public health, with massive fines possible if people ignore it.
And it will allow the cancellation of the upcoming election, if the situation becomes too dangerous to vote.
The new laws, which were passed in a late-night emergency sitting of parliament, brings in a raft of measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic that allow the state to limit the sizes of all gatherings, direct places to close or open and restrict people's movements and who they come into contact with.
It will allow the state to enact the range of measures announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, like restrictions around visiting nursing homes, the banning of indoor gathering above 100 people and mass gatherings over 500, and 14-quarantine periods for those who have, or may have, the virus.
But it also allows restrictions to be scaled up and down as health officials see fit.
Those who flout the restrictions will wear a fine of more than $13,000, with companies to be fined $333,600.
Health Minister Steven Miles said the Bill delivered the powers needed to "keep all vulnerable Queenslanders safe".
The laws will allow the government to direct supermarkets to open at special times for pensioners, or to open outside regular trading hours if needed.
And it makes clear anyone impacted by such order are not entitled to any compensation, stating economic stimulus is being provided instead.
The legislation makes it possible to move or cancel the March 28 council election and Bundamba and Currumbin by-elections in the interest of public health, allow for voting to be electronically, extend the time frames for postal votes and include more flexibility to hold the election by postal vote.
How-to-vote cards and other election material could be banned, if they're deemed to present a health risk.
It also changes the state's constitution to allow the Executive Council to meet by teleconferencing or videoconferencing to allow continuity of government if ministers get sick or are quarantined.
Mr Miles said Queensland's preparation had successfully contained the virus so far.
"Our goal has been to find every suspected case, isolate and test them, and if they are positive, provide them with the best possible care," he said last night.
"Our efforts have delayed the start of the epidemic in Queensland.
"By maintaining our effort now, we can slow the spread and flatten the curve of infection.
"That will allow our hospitals to save more lives."
"We are following the advice of the Australian Government and health experts as we respond to this outbreak," Mr Miles said.
"Measures are changing daily as the number of confirmed cases rise across the world.
"We need to be responsive and flexible, and this means that measures to slow down this virus could be advised at short notice."
Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said additional powers and social distancing measures were essential to ensure the safety of people.
"Our way of life is going to continue to change as we deal with this outbreak, but it is necessary to save vulnerable people's lives," Dr Young said.