Poland Seals Its Borders To Foreigners To Stem Coronavirus Spread
Poland Seals Its Borders To Foreigners To Stem Coronavirus Spread

PM declares human biosecurity emergency

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a "human biosecurity emergency" in Australia in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the National Security Committee met yesterday prior to the national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders.

The first of the committee's decisions was enacted by Governor-General David Hurley this morning.

"That is the human biosecurity emergency was declared under the Biosecurity Act by the Governor-General," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra this morning.

"That regards the recognition of the threat of the coronavirus and the need for the Federal Government to take actions under the Health Minister and myself as Prime Minister in relation to limiting that spread.

"I don't want people to be alarmed about this. This is what these measures in the Biosecurity Act are for."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra this morning. Picture Gary Ramage
Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra this morning. Picture Gary Ramage

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

According to the Act, the Governor-General may declare a human biosecurity emergency exists if the Health Minister is satisfied "a listed human disease is posing a severe and immediate threat, or is causing harm, to human health on a nationally significant scale".

The declaration must meet the requirement of being "necessary to prevent or control … the emergence, establishment or spread of the listed human disease in Australian territory".

The Act states in any case the human biosecurity emergency declaration "must not be longer than three months".

However, speaking of the coronavirus outbreak today, Mr Morrison said: "We are looking at a situation of at least six months for how we deal with this".

The Governor-General may extend the "human biosecurity emergency period" for up to three months if Mr Hunt is satisfied the coronavirus is continuing to pose the same nationally-significant threat or harm as it was when the declaration was first made.

Under the declaration, sweeping powers become available to Health Minister Greg Hunt including imposing restrictions or preventing the movement of people and goods between specified places and evacuations.

Mr Morrison said "similar powers" have already been enacted in the states and territories. Failure to comply with a requirement can result in civil or criminal penalties.

"If we slow the spread, we do save lives," the prime minister said.