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Blockdown blitz as Govt targets high-risk high-rises

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The NSW Government is preparing for a blitz on apartment blocks with new rules for residents of and visitors to units in the event that even a single home in the block is occupied by someone infected by Covid-19.

Under its new “blockdown” regulations gazetted today (Tuesday, Sep 7), if just one apartment is housing an infected person, and a public health officer believes there is a risk of transmission, the whole block may be considered to be a “high-risk premises” and must go into hard lockdown

That will mean that no one will be permitted to enter or leave for 14 days (with the exception of food deliveries, police, essential service providers and medical staff) or until the block is declared safe.

Even visitors who are in situ when the block is declared high-risk must either stay in the building or immediately return to their homes and self-isolate there until they are “medically cleared” through a covid test.

The regulations also contain compulsions for covid-19 testing and providing police with information about and contact details for everybody visiting or living in an apartment, even if it’s only occasionally.

The new regulations issued under the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order (No 3) 2021 says that high Covid-19 Risk buildings means blocks that contain two or more dwellings, at least one of which is a COVID–19 risk, and which the Minister has declared should be closed, following advice from a public health officer that there is a risk of transmission of Covid-19 between residents.

The new regulations define an “affected person for high Covid-19 risk premises” as anyone who lives there, whether permanently or temporarily, or is in the building when the Minister declares the premises to be high Covid-19 risk.

The new rules mean that residents of designated blocks must not leave home unless instructed to do so by an authorised medical practitioner or the police, for instance to go to a quarantine facility or a medical facility, or if there’s is an emergency that requires them to leave.

Affected residents of apartment blocks who are away from home when their block is declared high-risk must return home immediately they are aware of the declaration and stay there for 14 days or until the “high-risk” order is lifted.

One exception to the “go home now” rule would be if the affected resident was ordered to immediately attend a quarantine or medical centre.

Affected non-residents can be instructed to leave the block to go to a quarantine facility or medical facility, or stay in an apartment in the high risk block until medically cleared.

Otherwise they must comply with police and medical orders as if they were residents, including submitting either to Covid-19 tests or 14-days quarantine and providing information to police “that assists in identifying affected persons”.

Police can demand that residents of high-risk blocks provide accurate information, including contact details, of others who may be “affected persons”. The regulations specifically say if a police officer knocks at a door of an apartment  in  high-risk blocks residents are “required to open the door and comply with the request of the officer.”

It goes on to say that a request for information may include a “request to provide the name and contact details of persons residing or present at the premises, whether at the time of the request or generally.”

The new blockdown rules were presaged last week by the state’s chief medical officer Kerry Chant calling on all strata managers to update strata rolls to identify and include all residents of apartments.

Failure by owners to list all residents of apartments on their strata roll was already an offence under strata law, punishable by fines, but it is known to be widely ignored, by landlords and rental agents, especially in cases of multiple occupancy and overcrowding.

The request to update the strata rolls is now being seen in the strata community as a precursor of a “blitz” on apartment blocks in Covid-19 hot spots where compliance might be particularly low.

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