On 14 September 2017 the NSW Parliament agreed to amend the Public Health Act 2010 to expand the scope of public health orders.
Public health orders relate to just a small range of very serious notifiable conditions: viral haemorrhagic fevers, SARS, MERS, avian influenza in humans, typhoid, TB, HIV and AIDs (collectively Category 4 and 5 conditions). Public health orders are measures of last resort and are only used where voluntary measures are not adopted to prevent a public health risk.
From 1 April 2018 public health orders may:
- require a person with a Category 4 or 5 condition to be detained, irrespective of whether or not they are undergoing treatment
- require a person to undergo specific treatment at a specific place
- require a person to provide information about their contacts
- be made for contacts of viral haemorrhagic fevers, SARS, MERS, avian influenza in humans and typhoid who are at risk of developing the condition and are a risk to the public
- require contacts to undergo testing
Public health orders for contacts expire at the end of 3 business days unless an application is made to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and expire at the end of the incubation period for the disease.
NSW Health must report on the number of public health orders issued, and for which conditions, in the Annual Report from 2017-18 on.
Why have these changes been made?
The changes to public health orders for people with Category 4 and Category 5 conditions clarify the range of requirements that can be placed on a person who is creating a public health risk, particularly noting that not all Category 4 and 5 conditions have treatments available.
The introduction of public health orders for contacts of certain Category 4 conditions brings the NSW Public Health Act into line with the Australian Biosecurity Act, and recognises that sometimes contacts of diseases (such as MERS or Ebola) may represent a public health risk if they do not voluntarily agree to quarantine when requested.
These changes will be reviewed after 2 years.