New restrictions announced across Australian states and territories have changed daily routines for millions around the country. While some measures are clear, a number of us still aren't sure exactly what we can and can't do in the times of coronavirus.
The government shut down non-essential services and businesses from midday local time on Monday 23 March with it likely lasting up to six months. Cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs have closed down while supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and petrol stations remain open.
While it was a big step, more announcements from federal and state governments since then have only muddied the waters further and now many of us are wondering whether a park visit or going to the post office will result in steep fines or even jail time.
If you are unsure about what you can do, here's what you need to know.
This article was originally posted on 23 March but has been updated with the latest changes as of 31 March 2020.
Australia's federal and state governments have announced drastic new measures to movements and gatherings in a bid to curb the rate of coronavirus infection in the country. With a number of new changes being announced, here's a summary of what you need to know.
Can I still catch public transport?
For now, public transport is still considered an essential service so you will still be able to catch the bus or train but keep an eye on timetables in case they're altered.
The government's FAQ document does state "non-essential travel is to be avoided" and that travelling long distances on public transport can carry a higher risk of contracting the virus.
"Long distance services carry a higher risk of infection and should be reconsidered at this time. If possible sit in the back seat of taxis and ride share vehicles," the document reads.
Of course, if you need to in order to do your essential grocery shopping, the service remains available for now.
Can I go to the post office?
The requirements say you need to stay home unless one of the following applies:
- going to work or education (if you are unable to do so at home)
- shopping for essential supplies such as groceries, return home without delay
- going out for personal exercise in the neighbourhood, on your own or with one other
- attending medical appointments or compassionate visits
This makes going to the post office a tricky one and is doesn't quite fall into any of those categories but can still be essential for some of us.
Ultimately, this comes down to where you live and how heavily they are enforcing the orders. In NSW, tough new laws have been enacted, which attract huge fines of up to $11,000 being handed down if you don't abide by the rules. While going to the post office isn't mentioned explicitly, you could argue it would fall under accessing public services, which you're allowed to do.
In Victoria, similar rules apply if you're out of the house without a valid reason. The legislation, however, specifically names a post office as a necessary service so you'll be fine there.
Can I still get takeaway coffee?
According to the new laws in NSW, you're allowed to leave the house for the purposes of "obtaining food or other goods and services". Grabbing your morning coffee will likely fall under this category so you should still be able to do so.
The same applies in Victoria and once legislation changes are made available in other states that are enforcing tougher movement restrictions, it's assumed the same will apply there too.
Can I go to Bunnings?
While Bunnings is probably not an essential shopping outlet for everyone, it will remain open for the time being.
It's since restricted its trading hours to trade customers before 9am while most stores will now close at 7pm.
Also, all the regular social distancing rules still apply so keep this in mind if you need to visit.
Can I still go for a walk or a jog?
Lifehacker Australia asked the Department of Health for some clarification on whether regular activities, like going for a run, could be continued and it directed us to this document of frequently asked questions.
According to the department's advice, exercise can be continued as long as social distancing requirements are obeyed.
"All Australians are required to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to go outside," the document reads but adds going outside to exercise is allowed.
As long as you're practising proper hygiene and social distancing like being 1.5 metres apart from others, ensuring you continue washing hands and using your elbow when you cough and sneeze, then there should be no issue with your jog.
Because of these recommendations, it would be a smart decision to avoid venturing out to any popular running and walking routes.
Can I still go to the beach?
Going to popular beaches is off the cards right now. A few weeks back, a number of beaches in Sydney, including the famous Bondi Beach, were shut down due to hoards of beach-goers turning up and not following any of the social distancing recommendations. Since then, however, Australians have been urged to remain home unless it's for essential tasks and unless your local exercise route involves walking by the beach. If so, maintain your distance from others.
Can I still go to the shops?
Supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations have been deemed as essential services and are not required to shut for now. This means you'll still be able to head out to the shops as long as you've got an essential reason for going, such as doing your groceries.
While at the supermarket, don't forget the social distancing requirement of 1.5 metres. That means, leave an appropriate space in the queue behind the person in front and avoid aisles that are crowded. It is sensible to disinfect the trolley before using it and clean your hands thoroughly after your visit. Also, be careful to not touch your face during the visit or touch your phone.
As for shopping centres, most stores — unless deemed essential — will now be closed so it's best to park closest to the supermarket within the shopping centre, so you can get in and out quickly.
Can I still go to the park or for a bush walk?
Given the new advice is to stay at home and travel locally if necessary, bush walks are off the cards unless your home is nearby.
If it's a part of your exercise routine and you're only with one other person then it's still permitted.
Just consider whether it's something you need to do and leave if vulnerable people are around.
Can I have a few friends over or visit their house?
Indoor and outdoor gatherings are now limited to two unless they're members of your household. This is slightly complicated but essentially, if you live in a sharehouse or with a family of more than two, you will all be able to walk to the park to exercise, let's say.
Otherwise, gatherings are now limited to just two people. That means exercising, grocery shopping and anything else deemed essential can only be done with you and one other person unless the exception from above applies.
The question is then: Just because you can, should you? As with all the previous options, it's about necessity — if you're struggling to cope with self-isolation, then hanging out with a friend might make you feel at ease among all the panic and anxiety many of us are experiencing right now.
It's important to take the requirements seriously and call off a hangout if someone's feeling unwell.
Alternatively, there are digital ways to keep in touch such as social media and video calls. Even some people are taking to Skype dates so there's always a way around social contact.
What you can't do in Australia's new coronavirus restrictions
Just as a reminder of what you can't be doing right now, here's what's definitely off the table, as per the government.
- Non-essential travel unless for groceries, exercise or compassionate grounds
- Visiting any non-essential facilities who are not obeying the new opening restrictions
- Leaving the house if unwell
According to the health department's site, this is the extensive list of everything you'll no longer be able to visit for the time being:
- pubs, registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
- gyms and indoor sporting venues
- cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and night clubs
- restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
- religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies)
- food courts (except for take away)
- auction houses, real estate auctions and open houses
- personal services ( beauty, nail, tanning, waxing and tattoo salons)
- spa and massage parlours, excluding health related services such as physiotherapy
- amusement parks, arcades and play centres (indoor and outdoor)
- strip clubs, brothels and sex on premises venues.
- galleries, national institutions, historic sites and museums
- health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre and spin facilities, saunas, bathhouses and wellness centres and swimming pools
- community facilities such as community halls, libraries and youth centres, RSL and PCYC
- gaming and gambling venues
- indoor and outdoor markets (excluding food markets). States and territories will make their own announcements about this.
Hang out online if social distancing is getting you down
If you're struggling with the new isolation measures, there are other ways to hang out with people digitally. After-work drinks can be organised through video calls, friends can watch Netflix shows together with Chrome Extensions and speaking to loved ones and friends can help to make you feel less alone.
The important part is we practise social distancing, abide by official health guidelines and, most importantly, limit the risk of making other more vulnerable people sick.
With indoor events all but banned because of the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses are scrambling to find ways to convert physical conferences in to online events. Last week, I was meant to be MCing the Digital Utilities 2020 held by Monkey Media. But six days before the face to face event was meant to occur, the organisers faced a challenge; do they pull the pin and cancel the event, defer the event or look for a different way. The company's CEO, Chris Bland, decided to find a way to keep the event running but move it online.