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Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton says people with coronavirus are allowed to leave home

All Melburnians, including those infected with coronavirus, are allowed to leave their home during lockdown to exercise, according to Victoria’s Chief Medical Officer. 

State CHO Dr Brett Sutton said police officers cannot forbid people from exercising as it would infringe on their basic human rights. 

Dr Sutton revealed the loophole when a reporter asked at Tuesday’s press conference if infected people in quarantine can leave their home for exercise.  

‘They are. Otherwise it’s detention and we do not have detention for cases in Victoria,’ Dr Sutton replied. 

‘They are entitled to exercise within their home and their garden, ideally. People who have no garden and have no other option, have a right to exercise.

‘The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities is pretty clear that if you aren’t giving people an option to exercise then you are effectively putting them in prison and that’s not something that can be done for a case of coronavirus or for anyone else for that matter.’ 

Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 allows for all Victorians to continue to exercise outside of their homes, even if they have coronavirus. 

Section 21 of the act ‘Right to liberty and security of person’ dictates that ‘a person must not be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention’. 

The state’s recent COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 has placed limits on human rights during the state of emergency – but not enough to stop exercise. 

Dr Sutton said people should should still wear a mask and practice social distancing when out exercising in public. 

‘We provide guidance to individuals to absolutely limit their potential interaction with others,’ he said.  

‘We ask that they stay 1.5 metres away from all other individuals all of the time. We would say wear a mask, obviously they have to now if they’re in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire – we would say that they do that to the minimum required.’    

While Melbourne and Mitchell Shire residents can still exercise, the range of exercise they can take part in is very limited. 

Gyms, training facilities, pools and some outdoor facilities are all closed while community sport training and competition is forbidden. 

Residents are not allowed to participate in community sport in other areas and must exercise at the closest available location to their home. 

People are only allowed to exercise with one other person and outdoor personal training is still permitted but limited to two participants and an instructor.      

The Victorian government has deemed these limitations as ‘necessary, justified and proportionate’ in its statement of compatibility with the Human Rights Charter. 

Australia does not have a Bill of Rights like the US, which means the government can limit human rights in times of emergency. 

If police officers find people breaking these directives, they can issue an on-the-spot fine of $1,652 for non-compliance. 

The legal team from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) said the CHO’s directions are enforceable by law. 

The directions are made in accordance with emergency powers under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic), according to the lawyers. 

But the legal team stressed that Victoria Police must still consider human rights and act compatibly with human rights when enforcing the directives 

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