Dan Andrews has extended his controversial pandemic powers by three months in response to the Omicron outbreak.

Laws passed by the Victorian Parliament late last year allow him to announce a health crisis at any time and assume unprecedented powers.

The Victorian premier said on Sunday the extension of the declaration was a direct response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. 

‘As part of Victoria’s continued response to the global coronavirus pandemic, Premier Daniel Andrews has extended the pandemic declaration to apply to the state of Victoria from 11.59pm Wednesday 12 January for three months,’ a statement read. 

It advised that in making the declaration the premier was satisfied on reasonable grounds there was a serious risk to public health in Victoria. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) has extended his pandemic management bill by three months in response to the spiralling Omicron outbreak throughout Victoria

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) has extended his pandemic management bill by three months in response to the spiralling Omicron outbreak throughout Victoria

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) has extended his pandemic management bill by three months in response to the spiralling Omicron outbreak throughout Victoria

This risk included the rapid spread of the Omicron variant which led to significant cases never before seen throughout the state.  

‘The Omicron variant means there are significant challenges ahead of us. The third dose vaccine rollout, and our children five to 11 year-old vaccination blitz will give us the strongest chance of meeting this challenge,’ Mr Andrews said. 

‘Extending the pandemic declaration ensures we are able to put the measures in place to slow the rate of transmission and protect the community’s health and our health system.’

The controversial laws give the premier power to declare a pandemic for an unlimited period of time even if there are no cases of the virus.

If a new variant of Covid arises, the state government could announce pandemic orders ‘by decree’ to confine Victorians in their homes once again.   

In announcing the extension, the Acting Chief Health Minister noted Omicron had become the dominant strain of Covid-19 and accounted for 75 per cent of cases. 

The controversial laws give the premier power to declare a pandemic for an unlimited period of time even if there are no cases of the virus (pictured, shoppers in Melbourne)

The controversial laws give the premier power to declare a pandemic for an unlimited period of time even if there are no cases of the virus (pictured, shoppers in Melbourne)

The controversial laws give the premier power to declare a pandemic for an unlimited period of time even if there are no cases of the virus (pictured, shoppers in Melbourne)

He also noted the continuing rise in hospital and ICU admissions that came amid no indication the state had reached the peak of its Omicron wave. 

‘After the initial pandemic declaration, which lasted four weeks, subsequent extensions can last for up to three months,’ the statement read.

Health Minister Martin Foley has the power to make ‘any order’ he deems ‘reasonably necessary’ including lockdowns, vaccine mandates and masks.

The extended declaration will also mandate the formation of the Independent Pandemic Management Advisory Committee to advise on pandemic response. 

Under the new laws the premier has the power to declare a pandemic for three months an unlimited number of times.

The current state of emergency laws require a parliamentary vote to extend them every 12 months – but the new laws have no time limit.

The health minister can sign off on public health orders instead of the Chief Health Officer, a role currently held by Brett Sutton.

The laws give Health Minister Martin Foley has the power to make 'any order' he deems 'reasonably necessary' including lockdowns, vaccine mandates and mask-wearing

The laws give Health Minister Martin Foley has the power to make 'any order' he deems 'reasonably necessary' including lockdowns, vaccine mandates and mask-wearing

The laws give Health Minister Martin Foley has the power to make ‘any order’ he deems ‘reasonably necessary’ including lockdowns, vaccine mandates and mask-wearing

This gives the health minister the power to enforce lockdowns, shut down businesses, restrict movement, require masks, ban public gatherings, and enforce quarantine and isolation – powers currently held by the unelected CHO.  

The new laws state a person can be fined up to $21,909 for a breach of an order.

This could include not wearing a mask, breaking a movement limit, attending an illegal protest or a gathering, refusing to get tested or failing to show ID.

Businesses can be fined up to $109,044 for breaking rules which may include failing to make sure customers check-in or show proof of vaccine status.

In addition, there is a new aggravated offence for breaches that ’cause a serious risk to the health of another individual’.

These can be punished with a $90,870 fine and two years in jail. An example given in the bill is someone going to work when they are infectious and should be isolating.

Businesses can also be guilty of an aggravated offence, with a maximum fine of $454,350 if, for example, they refuse to obey a lockdown and encourage customers to also flout the rules.

The new emergency laws state a person can be fined up to $21,909 for a breach of an order (pictured, a student receives a rapid antigen test from a health care worker in Melbourne)

The new emergency laws state a person can be fined up to $21,909 for a breach of an order (pictured, a student receives a rapid antigen test from a health care worker in Melbourne)

The new emergency laws state a person can be fined up to $21,909 for a breach of an order (pictured, a student receives a rapid antigen test from a health care worker in Melbourne)

The bill also states that a pandemic order such as a lockdown or a vaccine mandate ‘may apply to, differentiate between or vary in its application to persons or classes of person’.

This allows the Government to select who it wants to apply the order to, including people who have been at a certain event, who live in a certain area or who have a certain type of job.

The Government can discriminate based on ‘presence in a pandemic management area; participation at an event; an activity they have undertaken; their characteristics, attributes or circumstances,’ the bill says.

It also allows the Government to lockdown unvaccinated people only. 

The Opposition has previously labelled the laws an ‘assault on democracy’ and branded Mr Andrews a ‘dictator’ – however they passed late last year.  

New cases in Victoria, which passed NSW with a massive spike to 51,356 on Saturday, dropped 13 per cent to 44,155 on Sunday. 

Cases in Victoria more than doubled this weekend after residents were given the ability to lodge the positive results they received on the at-home testing kits.

There are currently 752 Covid patients are in hospital with 104 in intensive care, 23 of whom require ventilation. Four people died overnight with the virus.

What are the fines in Daniel Andrews’ new law?

$21,909: This fine is for breaching a pandemic order such as not wearing a mask, breaking a movement limit, attending an illegal protest or a gathering, refusing to get tested or failing to show ID.

$90,870: This fine is for an aggravated offence for breaches that ’cause a serious risk to the health of another individual’ such as going to work when infectious.

$109,044: This fine is for businesses breaking rules which may include failing to make sure customers check-in or show proof of vaccine status.

$454,350: This fine is for an ‘aggravated’ offence by a business such as encouraging customers to flout lockdown rules .

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More to come.  

Source: DailyMail

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