COVID-19: Prohibited gatherings and activities

Government Directions on business and community activities 

On 15 March 2020 the WA government declared a State of Emergency in response to COVID-19. This allowed it to use emergency powers to create legally enforceable directions (rules) which aim to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

There are rules to control community gatherings, activities and public access to certain places.  These Directions are amended by the government as circumstances change.

In response to a case of COVID-19 in the community, there were special lock-down rules in place from 6 pm on 31 January until 6 pm on 5 February for the Perth, Peel and South West regions. Those rules were contained in the Stay at Home and Closure (Perth, Peel and South West Regions) Directions (No 3), Visitors to Residential Aged Care Facilities Directions (No 5) and the Face Covering Directions. 

These Directions were then replaced by Directions to cover the transition out of lock-down. They were the Safe Transition for Western Australians Directions, Visitors to Residential Aged Care Facilities Directions (No 6) and Contact Register Directions, which applied from 6 pm on 5 February until 12.01 am on 14 February, in the Perth and Peel regions only. These transition period Directions applied together with the Closure and Restriction (Limit the Spread) Directions (No 13). 

At 12.01 am 14 February 2021 all of Western Australia returned to pre-lockdown rules. As a result the Directions that currently apply are:

What is a gathering?

A gathering is when people come together or meet as a group. 

What are the rules about gatherings in Western Australia?

The Directions say that you must not organise or attend a ‘prohibited gathering’ and you must not allow a ‘prohibited gathering’ on premises you own, control or operate.

If you want to get together with other people in a public or private place (whether indoors or outdoors), the only rule is that there must be at least 2 square metres for each person in the undivided space you are sharing. There is no longer a limit to the number of people in the gathering as long as the 2 square metre rule is followed, subject to rules about certain activities

There are a number of exceptions to the 2 square metre rule for gatherings. For example:

  • when all the people in the gathering belong to the same household (e.g. all live in the same house)
  • when you go to an airport, shopping centre or medical service facility
  • when you take public transport or taxis, or you are in a car
  • when you go to court.

The full list of exceptions to the 2 square metre rule is contained in the Closure and Restriction (Limit the Spread) Directions (No 13).

The rules about gatherings operate together with rules that prohibit or control certain activities and rules that control public access to certain places. A gathering may fit within the 2 square metre rule, but still be subject to rules about the particular type of activity or place. For example, there are special rules that apply to hairdressers and beauty salons.  See further under the headings below.

What are the rules about prohibited activities?

The Directions say that in addition to the rules about gatherings, you must not engage in, organise or attend a ‘prohibited activity’.

    A ‘prohibited activity’ is either completely prohibited or allowed under certain conditions, as specified in the Directions.

    There are no longer any activities that are completely prohibited.  

    The only activities that are subject to certain special conditions are events and beauty therapy services.

    Beauty therapy services include massage, nail, hairdressing and similar services. These services may only be provided if there is at least 1.5 metres between each customer. This applies instead of the 2 square metre rule.

    Events may only operate if the event is registered, there is an approved COVID Event Plan and the event is held in accordance with that Plan.

    Other activities that were previously subject to certain conditions may now operate without any conditions. This includes weddings, funerals and open house inspections.

    What if I break the rules about prohibited gatherings or activities?

    If you break the rules about prohibited gatherings or activities, you can be charged by the police with breaking the law. The maximum penalty if you are charged and dealt with in a court is 12 months imprisonment or a fine of $50,000.

    Alternatively, police can issue you with a $1000 infringement on the spot.

    What are the rules about affected places?

    The Directions no longer require that certain ‘affected places’ be closed to the public. Further, the restrictions imposed on some places have been lifted. For example, pubs, bars, clubs, hotels, cafes and restaurants are no longer required to only serve food to patrons who are seated. 

    However, the 2 square metre rule continues to apply to gatherings in public and private places, whether indoors or outdoors and there are limits to the number of people allowed at Optus Stadium, HBF Stadium, HBF Park and RAC Arena (see paragraph 12(d) of the Directions).

    What are the rules about residential aged care facilities?

    Rules remain in place about entry to aged care facilities. The Visitors to Residential Aged Care Facilities Directions (No 4) prevent you from entering an residential aged care facility if you:

    • have returned from overseas in the preceding 14 days, or
    • been told by a responsible officer you are a close contact of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or
    • have symptoms of COVID-19, that is, you have a fever of 37.5 degrees or above, or a recent history of fever, or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (such as shortness of breath, cough or sore throat), or loss of smell or taste, or 
    • do not have an up to date influenza vaccination (unless you are responding to an emergency as, for example, an ambulance officer, or a vaccination is not reasonably available to you, or you have a documented contraindication to the influenza vaccine), or
    • are providing a service to a resident that would be reasonably practicable to provide remotely or by the resident attending an external facility.

    Further, if you enter a residential aged care facility you must comply with any instructions given to you by the supervisor of the facility, unless you have a reasonable excuse for not complying.

    If you break these rules you can be charged with an offence. The maximum penalty if you are convicted by a court is a fine of $20,000.

    Record of attendance at certain places - contact information

    Under Contact Register Directions there are two main rules:

    1. A place listed in the Directions must request your contact details if you are, or appear to be, 16 years or older and want to enter that place; and
    2. If you are 16 years or older you must provide true and accurate contact details if you want to enter a place listed in the Directions.

    The first rule has been in force since 5 December 2020. The second rule came into force on 5 February 2021.

    These rules are designed to help trace the potential spread of COVID-19 in the community. There are a few exceptions which say that contact details do not have to be requested or provided where:

    • the person is a resident entering a boarding school or residential college; or
    • the person is entering the place for medical or emergency purposes; or
    • the person is a patient or staff member entering a public or private hospital; or 
    • the place is, or is part of, premises used to accommodate staff of a mining site and is only open to, and used by, those staff.

    If you break these rules, you can be charged by the police with a criminal offence. The maximum penalty if you are charged and dealt with in a court is 12 months imprisonment or a fine of $50,000. Alternatively, police can issue you with a $1000 infringement on the spot. If the offence is committed by a body corporate, the maximum penalty is a $250,000 fine if dealt with in a court, or a $5,000 infringement.

    If you are requested to provide contact information, you must do so either manually or electronically, which may be through the 'SafeWA' app.

    If the place records your contact information itself, other than through the SafeWA app, it must hold this information for at least 28 days (or as directed) and provide it to a responsible officer if requested. The place must not use or disclose your contact information other than for the purpose of contact tracing or as permitted by law, unless you give permission for the information to be used for another purpose. The place must take reasonable steps to protect your information from being misused or lost or from being accessed, changed or disclosed without authority.

    More information

    The WA government website has further information about gatherings, activities and entry to certain places, as well as information about the transition out of lock-down for Perth and Peel regions:

     

    Reviewed: 15 February 2021

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    The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.