On Sunday evening Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced new national restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. The new measures include a two-person limit on public gatherings and the closure of playgrounds, skate parks and outdoor gyms.
Even though we’re seeing a unified government response at a state and federal level (led by the prime minister at the national joint cabinet), individual states retain the power to manage healthcare and policing. States can take additional measures on top of what the federal government prescribes, such as when Victoria moved the school holidays forward or Tasmania shut its borders.
So how do these new restrictions affect you and your lifestyle? Here are some answers to common questions.
What does the two-person rule mean?
Apart from schools and workplaces, gatherings of more than two people are banned. If more than two people live in your family home or sharehouse, however, members of the household can still go out together. Likewise, family units (e.g. dependent children who don’t live with their parent(s)) are excepted. Two final exceptions: a maximum of 10 people are allowed at a funeral, and five at a wedding.
Does the two-person rule apply to indoor gatherings, as well as outdoor ones?
Can I have a barbeque or dinner party, if it’s just a couple of mates?
If you already live with those mates, absolutely. Otherwise, no.
Outdoor gyms are closed, but can I still exercise outside?
Yes, provided you observe social distancing protocol. Exercise is one of four activities you may leave the house for, along with work or education, getting medical care and purchasing food or supplies. If you have a personal trainer, one-on-one sessions are your only option. No more group classes for the foreseeable future. Runners can still run alone or in a pair.
Can I still walk my dog?
Yes. You can even walk with a friend, provided it’s just the two of you.
Can I still go to the shops?
Yes, but only if you’re shopping for food and essential supplies.
Can I pick up food from restaurants and cafes?
The government is yet to make a definitive statement about this. For now, having heard nothing to the contrary, we’re assuming that collecting takeaway food falls into the same category as shopping for groceries and essential supplies.
A lot of the country’s restaurants, bars and cafes have pivoted to takeaway and delivery. As long as you’re allowed to, you should continue supporting them this way. Consult our live, regularly updated lists to see which restaurants are open for takeaway and/or delivery: Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.
Can I still go in to work?
If you are able to work from home, you should. If not, you are permitted to go to work.
What about schools and universities?
Schools in New South Wales are still open. Victoria is on school holidays until April 13, and is set to resume from then. In Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory schools are open but attendance is not mandatory. In the ACT, schools are open for pupils who absolutely need to attend, but are otherwise closed until the conclusion of the school holidays.
Some universities have closed their grounds and buildings and switched to online tuition, but for now it remains up to each university to make this decision.
Can I still go to the GP?
Yes. Medical care is another valid reason for leaving the house. If you suspect you have contracted coronavirus, first call the national 24-hour hotline on 1800 020 080. As of this morning, the Australian Government has enacted “whole of population” telehealth measures, which means that everyone in the country will be able to consult with their GP via video call. This applies to Covid-19 and to all other unrelated health concerns. If required, face-to-face consultations will still be available. Call your GP for more information.
What about the dentist? Or my physio?
Unless it’s an emergency, you can no longer go to the dentist. Sore gums, chipped teeth, crown issues and clicking jaws all have to wait until the measures have been lifted. Learn more here.
As for physiotherapists and chiropractors, it’s too early to tell. In a post on Facebook today, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (the peak professional body), said “we are working to provide detailed answers and accurate guidance from the Department of Health as soon as possible”.
What are the penalties for breaching these restrictions?
Penalties vary from state to state.
In Victoria, if you’re found breaking the two-person gathering ban, you’re up for a $1652 on-the-spot fine. If you’re a Victorian business found to be breaching the new restriction (a personal trainer running a group session rather than a one-on-one, for example), it’s a $9913 fine. Larger fines can be handed down by courts.
In New South Wales, individuals face on-the-spot fines of $1000, and it's $5000 for businesses.
South Australia, the ACT and Western Australia have not yet indicated the penalties for breaching the two-person gathering.
The Northern Territory will not be enforcing the two-person rule.
Police in Queensland have the power to issue fines of $1330 to individuals and $6670 to businesses on the spot.
In Tasmania, police will arrest those who breach the new restrictions. The offenders will then be summonsed to court.
I’m currently interstate. Will I be quarantined in a hotel when I get home?
No. Mandatory hotel quarantine is for Australians returning from overseas. But there are still some conditions to be aware of with regards to interstate travel. If you're flying into Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia or the Northern Territory you will need to quarantine yourself for 14 days. Tasmania has declared a state of emergency and all non-essential travellers – including Tasmanian residents – are required to self-isolate in government-provided accommodation for 14 days. Currently travel between New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT is still permitted.
Will there be a stage four?
A fourth stage looks likely across the country. In Victoria, Premier Andrews said, “as long as we see additional cases each day we have to consider next steps.”
Where can I find out more?
• To stay up-to-date with the government’s latest efforts to curtail the spread of Covid-19, the federal government has created an app, Coronavirus Australia, available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
•You can also receive alerts and updates from the government via WhatsApp.
•The Department of Health has a dedicated Coronavirus hub, which is updated 24/7.
• The states and territories are also maintaining their own, regularly updated hubs: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT.