In what may amount to a violation of privacy laws, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has announced that anybody who is not wearing a mask due to valid medical reasons will now be required to carry proof of their exemption.
‘Proof’ includes a medical certificate, a letter signed by a registered health practitioner or a statutory declaration.
Previously, individuals could not be compelled by police offers to produce evidence for exemptions due to privacy laws.
These rules have changed for NSW. If you are in a situation where masks are mandatory, a regulatory officer can ask you to confirm the lawful reason you are not wearing a face mask.
The change has been made to crack down on Australians who used loop holes in the mask mandate to avoid wearing masks.
Conflicts between citizens and police over mask wearing has previously led to violent confrontations, with footage going viral across the world of Australian police offers throwing women to the ground and slamming pensions into the side of police vans.
The changes to the mask legislation were made shortly after the July 22 press conference in which Hazzard replied to questions related to police frustration at not being able to demand proof of mask exemptions.
“I have instructed our lawyers to prepare an amendment to the order,” replied Hazzard, on July 22.
Earlier in July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian use of the army to control the Covid outbreak. She declined the offer, as did NSW Police.
“I reiterate my support for the close relationship NSW Police has with the ADF, particularly working through the bushfires,” said Mick Fuller, Commissioner of the NSW Police Force in a statement on July 7.
“That has continued throughout the Covid pandemic, including the close co-operation in the hotel quarantine operation and logistics support in the Police Operations Centre where ADF personnel continue to be essential in terms of the NSW Police operation.”
An anonymous minister has spoken to the Telegraph, suggesting that military check-points may become a feature of Berejiklian’s micro plan.
“The government might have to get tougher on a more micro-level. This could mean hardening the lockdown like putting up physical barriers. We’ve been offered troops, let’s use them,” said an anonymous minister to the Telegraph.
This comes only days after NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Chant called Covid a ‘national emergency’ – language that allows the government to expand its options for controlling the outbreak.
While it is common for the military to assist in matters of emergency such as floods and bushfires, Australia is not accustomed to military on the streets policing citizens. Support for any such move is unlikely to be popular.