Byron Bay and Tweed Heads were plunged into lockdown again earlier this week after a Covid-infected reality TV show crew member flew into Ballina from Sydney, wandered through some shops and had a long meet up at the Kingscliff Pub.
The woman, who is fully vaccinated, had been granted permission to leave her home in Greater Sydney for work purposes.
She has since been charged by NSW Police because she allegedly attended several businesses and venues in Byron Bay and Kingscliff, which was a breach of the conditions of her exemption.
Penalties for not using the QR check-in
Police say she also failed to check in to the locations she visited. The woman has been issued with a court attendance notice to appear in the Tweed Heads Local Court in November and faces five counts of failing to comply with an electronic registration directive.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has said that the woman had returned a negative rapid antigen test before leaving Sydney, but a later PCR test came back positive, which just proves how sneaky the coronavirus is, and why there are so many public health regulations in place right now as New South Wales battles the Delta outbreak.
Know the rules
Public health mandates are still changing regularly, and the onus is on us — the general public — to understand what the rules are — for a particular area or LGA, or for a particular type of exemption/permit, and comply. Unfortunately, not knowing the rules is not an adequate defence.
Since the middle of this year, it has been mandatory to use the QR check-in at all New South Wales businesses, organisations, educational institutions, and venues, right across the state.
So, while you might, for example, visit Ballina Fair and check in at the front door, you’re also expected to check in separately at each of the stores you visit within the shopping centre. If you don’t, you can be fined $1,000 for breaching a public health order.
Businesses also have a responsibility to make sure you’ve checked in. If they don’t, they too can face fines of up to $5,000.
If your smartphone isn’t working, then you should be able to manually check-in — that is, leave your details on a register at the store.
Why is this important? It’s critical for contact tracing. If someone tests positive for Covid, then the NSW Government relies on this information to alert anyone who may have been in the same vicinity as the infected person. It also has implications for you, if you are contacted by NSW Health as a ‘close’ or ‘casual’ contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid.
A close contact versus a casual contact
As far as the State Government is concerned, you can be labelled a ‘close contact’ without personally knowing, or having interacted with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. It can simply mean that you and a person with a positive test have visited the same venue at the same time. For example, you watched the same screening of a movie at a cinema, or you ate at the same restaurant at the same time, even though you might not have sat anywhere near each other
If you are identified as a ‘casual contact’ this means you may have been near a person with infectious Covid-19 but you are deemed to be at lower risk of getting Covid-19 than a close contact. Using the same example, you might have seen a movie at the cinema they visited on the same day, but not at the same screening, or the restaurant at a similar time but only to pop in and collect take-away, without actually going in and sitting down.
The New South Wales Government will assess your status and tell you what it is. In both cases, you are required to self-isolate, and get tested. You must stay isolated until your test results are conclusive.
If you fail to self-isolate you can be fined $5,000 in New South Wales. If you choose to challenge the fine in court, then the court can impose greater penalties.
This post is informative only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us.