Melbourne’s stage-four lockdown is happening in phases. Some new community restrictions have been in place since Sunday, but many additional rules for businesses are only coming into play tonight (as are stage-three restrictions for regional Victoria).

As with previous lockdowns, some restructions have been clear from the get-go, and others were clarified in the days after the initial announcement was made. Others are still being ironed out.

If you’re unsure, remember the golden rule is to stay home whenever possible, so we can reduce the number of people moving around Melbourne and Victoria.

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Here are the answers to a few common questions.

When does stage-four lockdown kick in?
A state of disaster was declared from 6pm on Sunday August 2, and rules relating to how the public moves about in Melbourne – new limits on exercise, shopping, when you can leave home and more – kicked in then, too.

Rules relating to how Melbourne businesses operate come into effect at 11.59pm tonight, Wednesday August 5.

The new stage-three restrictions for regional and rural Victoria also come into effect at 11.59pm tonight, Wednesday August 5.

When does it end?
All going well, authorities will look at relaxing restrictions again in six weeks.

Which areas are affected?
Stage-four lockdown covers metropolitan Melbourne, which includes Banyule, Hume, Moreland, Bayside, Kingston, Mornington Peninsula, Boroondara, Knox, Nillumbik, Brimbank, Manningham, Port Phillip, Cardinia, Maribyrnong, Stonnington, Casey, Maroondah, Whitehorse, Darebin, Melbourne, Whittlesea, Frankston, Melton, Wyndham, Glen Eira, Monash, Yarra, Greater Dandenong, Moonee Valley, Yarra Ranges and Hobsons Bay.

Everywhere else in the state – including all of regional and rural Victoria – will be under stage-three lockdown from midnight tonight. Mitchell Shire is already in stage three and will remain there for now.

What does stage-four lockdown mean?
A curfew is in place, so you can no longer leave home between 8pm and 5am. Exemptions apply for those with a permit to work, those providing essential healthcare services, and for health, care and safety reasons, including if you need to leave home in an emergency.

Outside of curfew, you must still stay home whenever possible. As per stage three, you can only leave home for one of the following four reasons – but these have new caveats attached:

  1. To shop for food and other essential goods and services.
  2. To receive or provide medical care, or for compassionate reasons.
  3. To study or work, if you can’t do so from home.
  4. To exercise outdoors.

You cannot travel more than five kilometres from your house. The advice is to stay as close to home as possible and shop at your local supermarket, for example, rather than driving to one four kilometres away. There is an exemption here, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS):

“For some people the nearest goods and services will be more than five kilometres away. In this situation you may travel beyond five kilometres to the nearest provider.”

Only one person at each household can leave home to shop, and only once a day. Those who would otherwise be leaving a young child or at-risk person at home unattended can bring them along.

It’s recommended you get as much shopping done in one hit as you can, and avoid multiple trips each week. Or you can get your groceries online from these independent local businesses instead.

You can leave home for healthcare and medical appointments, though many practitioners are now offering video appointments too. You can drive an elderly or sick relative to an appointment for medical treatment if you are a “parent, guardian or necessary support person”, the DHHS website states.

You can also leave home if there is an emergency, if there is violence in the home, or if you feel unsafe or at risk for any reason.

“If you are stopped by police, tell them you are feeling unsafe at home and they will help you. Safe accommodation and support for family violence is available,” the DHHS site says.

What are the new rules for regional and rural Victoria?
Stage-three restrictions will be in place from midnight this evening, so there’ll be only four reasons you can leave home:

  1. To shop for food and other essential goods and services.
  2. To receive or provide medical care, or for compassionate reasons.
  3. To study or work, if you can’t do so from home.
  4. To exercise outdoors.

Face masks must be worn whenever you leave home, and you can no longer have visitors or visit other people – except an intimate partner, or for one of the four reasons listed above.

What are “essential” goods and services?
It’s not been explicitly defined, but something necessary, such as soap or tampons, would fit the bill. Shopping for new jeans, for example, is something you can put off for a few weeks (or you can shop online). Most retail stores will now be moving online, or to click-and-collect, anyway.

Can I have a friend or family member over to my house in Melbourne?
No, unless it’s for compassionate reasons, or to provide or receive medical care. Likewise, you can’t visit anyone else.

What about my partner – and what about shared custody?
Your intimate partner can come to your place, although they must travel to you before the curfew kicks in at 8pm, and must stay until at least 5am. They can travel more than five kilometres to your place.

Those finishing essential work outside of these hours can visit a partner, but must go directly to their partner’s home. They cannot go to their own home first. So bring your toothbrush to work, folks.

Shared parenting arrangements can continue, whether informal or court-ordered. You can leave home to drop children off or pick them up.

What’s the deal with schools and study?
Tafe and university studies must be done remotely, and all schools statewide, including year 11 and 12 students, returned to remote learning today.

Schools, kindergartens and early childhood centres remain open only for vulnerable students and children of essential and permitted workers in Melbourne.
Specialist schools, kindergartens and early childhood centres in regional Victoria remain open.

Can I go to the beach in Melbourne?
Yes, but only for a walk, run, or similar exercise. You can’t play volleyball or take a boat out. And only if the beach is within five kilometres of your house.

Which businesses and facilities are closing?
All retail operations must now close, or move to online and click-and-collect services only, with the exception of:
• Supermarkets and grocers
• Bottle shops
• Bakeries
• Butchers
• Convenience stores
• Newsagents
• Petrol stations
• Pharmacies
• Post offices
• Hardware, building and garden suppliers (only for trade)
• Specialist stationery suppliers for business use
• Disability, health, mobility device and equipment retailers
• Maternity supply stores
• Motor vehicle parts suppliers (only for emergency repairs)

What about restaurants, bars and cafes?
Restaurants and cafes can continue to offer takeaway and home-delivery only – dining in is still banned – and you can only pick up food within five kilometres of your home.

Pubs, bars, clubs and nightclubs remain closed, unless serving food and alcohol to go.

Broadsheet’s live list of the city’s takeaway offerings is Melbourne’s definitive guide to who’s selling what, from heat-and-serve meals to magnums of pre-mixed Negroni. And it has a map function, too.

In terms of delivery distances, no official restrictions have been announced, but many venues are limiting themselves to five kilometres.

What’s happening with public transport?
It’ll continue to operate, but with a reduced schedule during curfew.

Can I go to church?
You still can’t physically attend a church for worship.

What about weddings and funerals?
Weddings are off from tomorrow onward, except for compassionate reasons (for example if someone is nearing the end of their life). In that case, only five people total can attend – that includes the couple, the celebrant and other officials.

Funerals are allowed but limited to 10 people.

What exercise is allowed?
You can exercise outside once per day, and only for one hour. This means you can still walk, cycle, run, do yoga or workout in the park, but only within five kilometres of your home. You cannot take part in recreational exercise such as fishing or golf.

You can only exercise with one other person, but if you have a dependent who cannot be left alone, they can come with you too.

All indoor and outdoor gyms and sport facilities are closed.

You can also exercise in your home – check out our list of Melbourne fitness classes you can stream.

Can I move house?
Yes, but not during curfew times.

What are the rules around pets?
You can take your pet to the vet if necessary. If you live in an apartment with no yard, you can leave more than once a day for your pet’s bathroom breaks, but you must stay as close to home as possible, and come straight home.

Those who do leave their homes for essential reasons must follow social distancing guidelines, which include maintaining 1.5 metres from others at all times and avoiding physical greetings. Masks are now mandatory statewide whenever leaving home. For updates, check the DHHS website.