This article examines the scope, application, and implications of criminal offences relating to the containment of COVID-19 in Australia. Drawing in part on existing research concerning criminalisation of HIV transmission, the article highlights actual and potential discriminatory consequences of the criminal justice approach to COVID-19, as well as consequences for persons’ right to health. The article concludes that criminal offences relating to the spread of the virus must be precisely and narrowly circumscribed to be both fair and meaningful. Criminal prosecution and punishment can only be justified in a very small number of situations. Broad use of coercive and punitive powers, together with stigmatising rhetoric, may well be counterproductive to public health goals.
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