Australia’s coronavirus restrictions are easing — here’s what you can and can’t do


After more than a month of stay-at-home orders and progressively stricter rules around social movements, some Australian states and territories this week announced an easing of their coronavirus restrictions.

Depending on where you live, it means this weekend you might be able to partake in some retail therapy at the shops, visit your mates, or even go fishing and camping.

With the coronavirus threat at different levels across Australian jurisdictions, some governments have decided to keep all their restrictions in place, others are slightly taking their foot off the peddle, while one has gone hard in winding back its measures.

These are all the things your government now says you can and can’t do:

Jump to your state

Northern Territory

The NT’s Litchfield National Park will be open from noon Friday for swimming and camping.(Supplied: NT Government)

The Territory is the big mover when it comes to relaxing coronavirus restrictions.

From noon Friday, Territorians will no longer be subject to the 10-person limit guideline for outdoor activities.

With no recorded coronavirus cases for over three weeks, the NT this week announced the country’s most liberal wind backs, with Territorians able to fish, camp and play non-contact sport from midday.

The NT Government has released a list of parks and recreation areas across the NT that will no longer be subject to outdoor restrictions from midday, while Kakadu, Uluru and Nitmiluk will remain shut.

The new rules mean there will be no limit on wedding and funeral attendance as long as social distancing guidelines are adhered to, while playgrounds will also be opened for the first time in weeks.

Other outdoor activities permissible in the NT from noon are:

  • Bootcamps, non-contact sports, and outdoor gatherings
  • Sports including golf and tennis where distancing can be maintained 
  • Pools and water parks
  • Camping, boating, sailing and fishing

The eased restrictions apply to communities within Designated Biosecurity Areas, but these areas will remain closed to all non-essential workers until at least June 18.

Looking down from the top of Gunlom Falls in the Northern Territory.
To protect remote communities from COVID-19, Kakadu National Park will remain closed to visitors.(ABC Open Contributor Heath Whiley)

Chief Minister Michael Gunner on Thursday released the first detailed coronavirus exit-strategy of any state or jurisdiction, outlining return dates for businesses, sporting teams and events.

Stage one begins today, while stage two will commence on May 15 and stage three on June 5.

Mr Gunner has stressed physical distancing as the key to the Territory’s aggressive plan.

“There is one important principle, and that is physical distancing. Failure to do so puts this plan at risk,” he said.

The Territory’s existing border security and quarantine arrangements will not change for some time, Mr Gunner said.

Western Australia

A group of people at a beach.
Groups of 10 can now socialise at the beach under a partial lifting of coronavirus restrictions in WA.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Premier Mark McGowan began what he called the state’s “cautious relaxation” of some coronavirus measures earlier this week.

The two-person rule has been eased to a 10-person limit, so small groups can now meet up either outdoors or inside.

The easing of the two-person rule means boot camps and some other forms of group exercise will be allowed again providing physical distancing is maintained.

Gyms, outdoor gym equipment, playgrounds and skate parks remain closed.

Fishing at sunset near Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory
Some freshly caught fish might be an option this weekend if you live in WA or the NT.(Flickr: Criswa)

Restrictions on home inspections have been eased, with inspections allowed to go ahead if the 10-person rule is followed.

The WA Government also announced a range of non-contact recreational activities will be allowed again, including:

  • A picnic in the park with friends (so long as there’s not more than 10 of you)
  • Having up to nine of your mates around for a barbeque, so long as there’s space for 4 square metres per person
  • Soccer at the park with your friends, so long as there’s no contact (and no more than 10 of you)
  • You can go fishing or play tennis or golf
  • You can pack the tent and go camping — but campsites are only open to those with no other accommodation options
  • Or grab your hiking boots and go on a bushwalk or hike
  • You can take your boat out for a sail — just don’t try going to Rottnest, as moorings there are still not open

Dining in is still banned, so you can only get takeaways for now.

Restaurants, cafes, food trucks and food courts are still not allowed to seat customers and are restricted to takeaway food and coffee, and home deliveries.

Strict measures remain in place on a range of other activities and venues like pubs, nightclubs and churches, as Mr McGowan said WA must stay vigilant ahead of lifting restrictions too early.

Queensland

Workers rush to work in the Brisbane CBD crossing Queen Street.
Queenslanders have been relieved of a number of stay-at-home rules.(ABC News: Jessica Hinchliffe)

After almost five weeks of tough lockdown measures, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced some stay-at-home restrictions would be lifted.

From Saturday, Queenslanders will be able to leave their homes for recreation and the distance they can travel has been extended to 50 kilometres.

The new rules mean residents can now:

  • Go for a drive
  • Ride a motorbike, jet ski or boat for pleasure
  • Have a picnic
  • Visit a national park
  • Shop for non-essential items

But physical distancing guidelines remain in place and outings are limited to members of the same household, or an individual and one friend.

Queensland Police said it would be deploying an extra 140 officers to patrol increased levels of outdoor activity in the state.

A woman checks through dresses in a women's clothing shop
Non-essential shopping is allowed in Queensland from Saturday.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

New South Wales

The state worst hit by COVID-19 was among the first to announce its social restrictions would be slightly eased.

The new rules allow people to visit friends in their homes. It means groups of two adults — and their children if they have any — will be able to visit other households for social gatherings.

The NSW Government said the decision to relax restrictions was made to improve mental health and reduce social isolation.

NSW Premier Glady Berejiklian acknowledged there was “risk” to easing restrictions, but declared she was “absolutely confident that people will be responsible”.

“Don’t take risks. We don’t want to see the numbers suddenly spike up because people are being irresponsible,” Ms Berejiklian said.

A swimmer facing the beach, with 'We've got our beach back' written in zinc on his back.
Bondi Beach was reopened for locals this week.(ABC News: Jesse Dorsett)

Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama beaches are open, but can only be accessed by locals.

The beaches in the council areas of Randwick and Waverley, which covers Bondi Beach, were closed last month after images of a packed Bondi made global headlines.

South Australia

South Australia has not announced any formal easing of restrictions after initially taking a slightly more moderate approach to coronavirus rules than some of the eastern states.

The state on Thursday hit eight days with no new COVID-19 cases.

While social distancing has been enforced, and fines issued to those found to have breached regulations, beaches were never shut.

Wineries, breweries and cellar doors are currently allowed to operate takeaway services after restrictions were relaxed earlier in the month.

The Barossa Valley wine and tourist region was reopened on Wednesday after the area was shut off to visitors because of two separate virus clusters.

SA Chief Health Officer Dr Nicola Spurrier this week said a meeting would be held with regional leaders to discuss lifting travel restrictions in the state’s regions, but it is not yet clear when that would occur.

However, there has been no move as yet to relax the rules on social gatherings, which currently remain capped at 10 people maintaining appropriate distance.

Victoria

People holding up alcoholic cocktails
Bans on eating and drinking at venues remain in place across Australia.(Pixabay: bridgesward)

For Victorians, stage-three restrictions are likely to stay in place until Victoria’s state of emergency can be lifted on May 11.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday said he wanted 100,000 people tested for COVID-19 over two weeks before making any decisions on relaxing stage-three restrictions.

The two-person limit is still being enforced, and Victorians are still being told that if they can stay at home, they must stay at home.

That means social visits with friends are still off the cards, with visitors only allowed when they are providing care or support.

It’s OK to go to work and attend school, but the Government says where you can do these things at home, you should.

The Victorian Government says “shopping for food and other essential services, medical care or care-giving, exercise and work or education” are the main activities you can still leave the house for.

While state schools are prepared to deliver classes online for all of term two, Mr Andrews said he was “open” to allowing students to return to classrooms before term three if medical evidence supported the move.

Mr Andrews said “ramped-up testing” would need to continue for “weeks and months to come” and said he understood maintaining stage-three measures might not “be the news people want to hear”.

Tasmania

Picture of a woman wearing a hat walking down a bushy track
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein has held back on opening up parks and reserves.(Supplied: Natalie Mendham)

On Thursday, Premier Peter Gutwein told Tasmanians that easing coronavirus restrictions would have to wait.

But he flagged any relaxation of measures would likely begin with parks, reserves and recreation spaces.

While the Premier has not released a timeline on when life might begin returning to normal, he said the current state-wide restrictions would be reviewed in the lead-up to May 15.

Restrictions specific to the coronavirus-hit north-west of the state, which closed non-essential retailers such as Kmart and Harvey Norman, have been extended until May 4.

“I am hopeful that in coming weeks the advice from Public Health will be that we can begin loosening some restrictions, however this will only occur if the health risk is low,” Mr Gutwein said.

The Premier said Tasmania’s border restrictions would likely remain as the state’s “strongest defence against the virus for some time.”

ACT

The coronavirus-free ACT, which on Thursday become the first Australia jurisdiction to neutralise COVID-19 by reaching no active cases, has no formalised plan to wind back restrictions.

Public school students returned to remote learning this week, with a number of ‘hub’ schools open to provide supervision to children of essential workers.

Restrictions in the ACT are already more lenient than those in surrounding NSW, something Chief Minister Andrew Barr previously suggested could be an issue if the territory was to ease restrictions further.

“Were we to reopen bars and restaurants, but they remained closed in NSW, then we would get quite an influx of people into the territory and that would lead to an increased risk,” he said.

Instead, Mr Barr suggested the most likely early easing of restrictions would be around public gatherings, going from a maximum of two people back up to 10.

That would allow things like small family gatherings and fitness boot camps to resume.

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