When news broke in Victoria that the current state of emergency would be extended for further 4 weeks, many assumed that meant our coronavirus lockdown period would now be ten weeks long.

But the lockdown, a measure imposed by the state government under the fourth tier of its alert level system, has a completely different function to Civil Defence’s state of emergency.

States of emergency have been declared many times in the past – most notably in response to extreme weather events and the bush fires

In contrast, Victoria’s alert level system was only conceived last month, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In light of the uncertainty surrounding the functions of the two systems, the SSAA would like to point out the differences.

The state of national emergency and COVID-19 alert levels are two distinct and separate things,”

“The alert levels specify the range of measures that are taken against COVID-19. A state of emergency provides the people managing the response in an emergency – and in this case, COVID-19 – access to powers that they need but would not normally have.

“The alert levels can be applied without a state of emergency, and a state of emergency can be declared without alert levels being used.”

In short, the alert levels are the measures deployed to protect Australia from COVID-19, while a state of emergency gives officials the power to enforce those measures.

These powers are complementary to the powers under the health legislation, they have been used a number of times so far, including to stop people doing non-essential activities.

There can be slight variants in a state of emergency across Australia and New Zealand. However, members are advised to monitor their state and federal government websites and communications