Acting on advice from the chief health officer that there was a serious and potentially catastrophic risk to public health arising from COVID-19, yesterday I declared a state of emergency throughout Victoria under section 198 of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.
This state of emergency began at midday yesterday; it will be in force for the next four weeks. This has enabled the chief health officer to issue a direction implementing the decisions of the national cabinet announced by the Prime Minister on Sunday. The chief health officer has the powers he needs to enforce 14-day isolation requirements for all travellers entering Australia and to prevent non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people. This includes banning non-essential mass gatherings such as cultural events, sporting events and conferences. I acknowledge this will impact on our way of life significantly, and I thank Victorians for their understanding in what is a very difficult time.
These measures are based on the advice of Australia’s chief health officers to slow the spread of COVID-19 infections and to give our health system the best chance of managing this virus. This is the biggest public health challenge that we have faced in our lifetimes. We are seeing large increases in cases in Victoria. Overnight there were 23 new cases alone. This is the biggest jump that we have seen to date, and it brings us to a total of 94 cases in Victoria. This is why it is so important that we have the right tools at our disposal to minimise the impact of this virus.
Under a state of emergency, authorised officers, at the direction of the chief health officer, can act to eliminate or reduce a serious risk to public health by detaining people, restricting movement, preventing entry to premises or providing any other direction an authorised officer considers reasonable to protect public health. These are strong and unprecedented measures. We have not made these decisions lightly, but as we move to manage the spread of coronavirus we will do whatever is required to keep Victorians safe. I do ask all Victorians to come together, to support each other and to show each other kindness and compassion at this challenging time.