Coronavirus restrictions lift across Canberra, allowing gyms, beauticians, galleries, camping and 20-person gatherings


For many, these weeks of isolation have involved a lot of time on the couch, and plenty of snacks.

Now the day some have been quietly dreading has arrived — from today, you may no longer have an excuse not to go to the gym.

This weekend will see the most significant easing of physical distancing restrictions yet in the ACT, with gyms, beauticians, art galleries, museums and even zoos permitted to open their doors.

Things will still look a bit different, with every activity still subject to strict distancing rules.

But cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs will all seem much fuller today.

And that much-dreamed-of weekend trip to the coast? It is still off the cards, unless you are visiting friends or family — but there are big changes coming on that front, right around the corner.

Here is a comprehensive look at what is on, and what is not, in Canberra from today:

I need someone to cook for me and also do the dishes. Can I go to a cafe?

Avocado toast and a coffee on a table.
Brunch is on the menu at those businesses reopening in the ACT today.(Unsplash: Le Buzz)

If you are craving some smashed avocado on fancy sourdough (non-homemade) down at the local cafe, it is much more likely to be open and taking orders this morning.

Cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs can all open their doors to up to 20 customers in each enclosed or outdoor space, a lift on the 10-person rule in place until now.

That means some venues may be able to cater for many more than 20 patrons — large clubs, for example, often have plenty of different spaces within their venues, and can seat 20 in each.

And if cafes have an indoor and outdoor area, they can have up to 20 patrons in each space, so long as they can be accommodated under the one person per four square metre rule.

Expect some venues to get creative in making space for more customers, by throwing up temporary walls here and there to create new “enclosed” spaces.

If you want to head down the pub for a beer or a glass of wine, you will need to order a bowl of chips with it too — all alcoholic drinks have to be served alongside food.

And you can’t spend all afternoon there, either. All customers are being asked to keep their visits to two hours or less, and the venues would probably appreciate a bit of turnover too.

If you have always hated sharing food, well, for now, you do not have to worry. Share plates are being discouraged, and buffets are out.

And if you are heading to the club, the pokies room will still be cordoned off.

There’s no excuse now — gyms can reopen

Three women in a gym, squatting while holding dumbbells. In between each woman is electrical tape marking physical distancing.
Canberra gyms will have to ensure patrons maintain social distancing while working out.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

If you are scared, you should be. That first session is really going to hurt.

Gyms are permitted to reopen from today, for personal training and classes of up to 20 people. You have finally run out of excuses (not really, there will always be excuses).

Group sessions and classes can’t involve the sharing of equipment, so circuit sessions are out.

And all classes have to take place in a space large enough to meet the one-person-per-four-square-metre rule.

A man kneeling in a gym holds a bottle of disinfectant and sprays it on a dumbbell while he holds a rag in his other hand
Strict hygiene measures have been imposed on businesses as restrictions lift.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

If you want to just head to the gym and do your own thing, you will have to be prepared.

No unsupervised workouts are allowed, so you will find most gyms require you to book a time before you visit to keep numbers under 20 in each space.

So all workouts will take on a bit of a “class” atmosphere to stay within the rules.

And no midnight workouts either (who are those people anyway?) unless your 24/7 gym plans on putting on staff all night long.

Equipment should be cleaned between use by staff members, and equipment that is hard to clean should not be used.

Changerooms and showers will be cordoned off.

Boxing and martial arts gyms can only run non-contact classes, capped at 20 people.

Beauticians are back

A person puts nail polish on another person's finger nails.
Beauticians can reopen in the ACT from May 30, but must maintain strict hygiene measures.(Unsplash: Kris Atomic)

Facials, makeup, waxing, laser hair removal, laser treatments and eyelash extensions are all allowed to resume. Tanning and nail salons can reopen too.

Beauty therapists, along with spa, massage and tattoo parlours can reopen.

Obviously, many procedures are hard to do while maintaining physical distancing. Anyone in close contact is asked to keep sessions to a maximum of 15 minutes, and overall procedures to two hours in length.

Hydrotherapy tubs, whirlpools and steam rooms can reopen, but not saunas.

Many of these places will ask for at least a first name, and a phone number, so you can be contacted in the event of an outbreak.

And like pretty much everywhere, numbers are going to be capped — at 20 people indoors at a time including staff, along with the one person per four square metre rule.

The coast is so, so close

Can you hear the ocean calling? Longing for the cold embrace of the sea? Or just the taste of a cold beer, in the salty air? Monday is the day.

New South Wales will ease a whole range of its restrictions from Monday June 1, including rules around regional travel.

Narooma's Wagonga Inlet with bridge leading over bright blue water, as seen from the air.
Trips to NSW are still not allowed until June 1, unless visiting the home of family or friends.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

It means, from Monday, ACT residents can travel anywhere within New South Wales, for any reason. Day trips, and longer trips, to the coast will be very much allowed.

And not just the coast — the New South Wales Government will be encouraging travel right across the state, including the snowfields once they open.

Travel restrictions are set to ease in Victoria from June 1, too.

But you won’t have many other options for interstate travel for a while, with no other states detailing plans to reopen their borders just yet (though the ACT is in talks with South Australia and Tasmania about some special arrangements).

Expect the Kings Highway to be jammed, come next Friday afternoon.

Bigger, better barbecues

The broader easing of restrictions means you can now have more people around to your home at a time.

The limit is now 20 people, including children. More are allowed if one household is visiting another.

But you may need some pretty big spaces inside your home — like a room large enough to accommodate one person every four square metres.

And while you are there, try and keep your distance too, as you would anywhere else.

Camping in the backyard isn’t quite the same, is it?

A person squats next to a campfire, which is burning.
Camping will be allowed at ACT campgrounds from today, other than those impacted by bushfire in the summer.(Unsplash: Janelle Hayes)

A handful of the ACT’s campgrounds will re-open from this weekend, in case you need to escape and get a bit of fresh air.

But they might be busy — just four campgrounds are opening: Cotter, Kowen, Blue Range and Centenary Trail Northern Border.

Honeysuckle, Mt Clear, Orroral and Woods Reserve are all closed due to bushfire recovery work.

Many New South Wales campgrounds will re-open from Monday, but it is worth checking ahead before you head off anywhere.

Any gatherings on a campsite must be limited to 20 people.

If you would rather head down to the park, playgrounds are open and public barbecues can now be used — but good hygiene is encouraged.

Indoor playgrounds will remain closed.

Culture is (soon to be) on the cards

Several paintings hanging at the national gallery are covered in black sheets
Paintings at the National Gallery of Australia were put to bed when the gallery was closed due to coronavirus restrictions.(Supplied: NGA)

Canberra’s national institutions can begin to reopen under the eased restrictions, and will begin to do so over the next few weeks.

The National Museum of Australia and National Gallery of Australia will be among the first movers, reopening to the public from Tuesday.

All National Cultural Institutions have penned an open letter, inviting the public back as they re-open.

Many will do so with new protocols — for example, the NGA is asking visitors to pre-book and join a timed session, and follow a set path through the parts of the gallery that are open.

If you are looking to get out and about this weekend, the National Zoo and Aquarium is open from Saturday.

Weddings, funerals and church on Sunday

A man and woman smile as white rice is thrown at them as they walk from their wedding.
Larger groups are now permitted at weddings and funerals.(Unsplash: Frans Hulet)

If you are going ahead with a wedding planned for this weekend, quickly double the guest list.

Up to 20 people can now attend a wedding, including the couple, but excluding the celebrant and photographer.

The reception is also subject to gathering rules, with the 20-person limit in place.

50 people can attend a funeral indoors or outdoors, excluding anyone working at the event. Wakes are still subject to the 20-person limit.

Regular church services can go ahead with 20 people in attendance, excluding those conducting the ceremonies.

This differs from New South Wales, where the limit will be 50 people from June 1.



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