people exercising in group of two, adhering to restrictions on public gatherings
Canberrans could face fines of up to $8,000 if they breach public gathering restrictions limiting groups to two people. Photo Kerrie Brewer.

Being outside in groups larger than two now puts you at risk of an $8,000 fine in the ACT, after Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman signed a Public Health Emergency Direction last night prohibiting non-essential gatherings.

The Direction enforces the National Cabinet’s two-person limit on non-essential gatherings, both inside and outside.

Failure to comply could see organisations face up to a $40,500 penalty.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr told a press conference today that the restrictions on public gatherings will be enforced through ACT Policing in a staged approach of “education, warnings, and then fines” if people continue to flout them.

“ACT Police will issue fines if people continue to gather in groups greater than two people,” he said.

The Chief Minister said that all Canberrans should be limiting guests inside their homes as much as possible.

“This is not a time for inviting family and friends around for dinner and drinks, so for the next few months those catch-ups should be virtual, not physical,” he said.

Outside of the home, people are not to meet up with more than one person for any essential activities such as exercise.

Family groups and household units can exercise together, “but if you’re going out for a walk, you’re going out for a walk with only one friend”, the Chief Minister added.

He stressed that Canberrans should only be leaving their home to either get essential supplies, seek medical advice or to provide care, to exercise, or to go to work or study if that’s not possible from home.

“We understand that this limit on gatherings is challenging … but the more effective we are at implementing these measures, the shorter the time period that they will be in place,” Mr Barr said.

Chief Police Officer for the ACT Ray Johnson said ACT Policing was one part of Canberra’s whole-of-government response to addressing COVID-19.

“ACT’s response to compliance measures with the COVID-19 directions remains a staged one – we want to educate first before we move to warnings and fines.

“If you are outside and police suspect you may not be complying with the directions, our officers may have a conversation with you to find out the reasons why you are not at home,” Chief Police Officer Johnson said.

ACT Policing advised that people who are in quarantine or self-isolation for 14 days could expect a visit from government authorities.

Under direction from ACT Health, ACT Policing has been conducting spot checks of people self-isolating at home.

“To date our checks have not identified any issues and I would like to thank those Canberrans for doing the right thing,” Chief Police Officer Johnson said.

Members of the public can report to Crime Stoppers if they hold concerns an individual or community is failing to comply with Public Health Orders. Reports can be made anonymously.

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