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Physical distancing and handwashing are still the order of the day but socialising, in moderation, and gathering in (small) groups outdoors are back in our tentative post-ISO world. With the number of COVID-19 cases relatively low compared with most other nations, the federal government has provided a three-step roadmap for states and territories to start carefully relaxing some restrictions on our movement.

The usual “common sense” caveats remain.

“Regulation can achieve things but every individual has to do more than regulation,” says Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy.

Social distancing and hand hygiene are key ways to prevent a dreaded second wave of infections.

“So if you’re going to a shopping centre to buy something, go and buy something but don’t hang around the shopping centre for half-an-hour mingling for no purpose – go home,” Murphy said on May 10.

“If you are arriving at a shopping centre and you find a crowd at an escalator not wanting to practice social distancing or crowding together, don’t go in – leave, come back later.

“If you see someone not practising social distancing or behaving irresponsibly, tell them. If a lift opens and you find it’s full of people, don’t get in.”

The difference between states’ approaches remains too, with Victoria and NSW still on the tougher side but then, as Premier Daniel Andrews has noted, “this is a pandemic, not a popularity contest”. And countries such as Singapore and South Korea are offering us clear warnings about the surges of cases that can come with relaxing rules.

Here is the federal government roadmap – and read on to find out how your state has opted to ease restrictions.


New South Wales

As Premier Gladys Berejiklian enforced some of the toughest restrictions across Australia, many residents worried about heavy policing, but instead fines given out for breaches of public health orders produced some comedy, a resignation and a major headache for the NRL.

WA Premier Mark McGowan was hit with a case of the giggles upon hearing of a NSW man fined $1000 for eating a kebab after being out running. (Police had found the 21-year-old sitting down for the third time that day.) About a week later, NSW arts minister Don Harwin was also fined $1000 – and quit cabinet – after breaching rules by moving to his holiday home in Pearl Beach during the coronavirus crisis.

A trio of NRL stars were also caught out when people saw photos on social media in which they were flouting social distancing rules; a couple of days later, another star was found to have breached social distancing regulations when a Tik-Tok video emerged of him dancing with others at a house on the ANZAC Day long weekend.

Announcing an easing of rules, the Premier said, “I can assure you the government would not be moving forward at this stage unless it was absolutely safe to do so.”

The rules now

Residents are allowed two adults to their household at a time. There is no limit on the number of children who can come over. Maintain social distancing.

A maximum 10 people are allowed to attend a funeral, excluding those conducting the service. Just five people are allowed to attend a wedding, including the celebrant.

Children are asked to head back to school for one day a week. This will increase over the coming weeks. In childcare, as long as a centre is open, kids are permitted to attend.

Retail stores are allowed to be open and people are allowed to shop, so long as social distancing is maintained.

Cafes and restaurants are allowed to operate under takeaway-only rules.

There is no set distance in place for travel but NSW residents must still have a reasonable excuse to be out and about. Local and regional travel still does not fall under this category. Only essential interstate work travel is permitted.

The reasonable excuses to be out and about in NSW (until May 15)Buying food or other goods or services for the personal needs of the household or other household purposes (including pets) and for vulnerable peopleTravelling to work if you can’t work from homeTravelling to childcare (including picking up or dropping another person at childcare)School or uni drop-offs if the student can’t learn from home (this includes taking an L-plater out driving in NSW)Exercising (more on that below)Obtaining medical care or supplies or health supplies or fulfilling carer’s responsibilitiesAttending a wedding or a funeral in approved circumstancesMoving to a new home (including a business moving to new premises) or between your different homes, or inspecting a potential new homeProviding care or assistance (including personal care) to a vulnerable person or providing emergency assistanceDonating bloodUndertaking any legal obligations (including attending court or fulfilling bail requirements)Accessing public services (whether provided by government, a private provider or a non-government organisation) including social services, employment services, domestic violence services mental health services, and services provided to victims (including as victims of crime)For children who do not live in the same household as their parents or siblings, or one of their parents or siblings – continuing existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children or siblingsFor a priest, minister of religion or member of a religious order – going to a person’s place of worship or providing pastoral care to another personAvoiding injury or illness or to escape a risk of harmFor emergencies or compassionate reasons

From Friday, May 15

Household visits will move to five people at a time, including children. Ms Berejiklian has said, “The combination is up to you but the five people, I want to stress, includes children, so it can be five adults or two adults and three children.” Social distancing measures must still be taken.

Ten guests will be allowed at a wedding. Indoor funerals will be allowed up to 20 mourners and up to 30 for outdoor funerals. Religious gatherings and places of worship can have up 10 worshippers. Any other outdoor gatherings can have up to 10 people. Children can return to the playground and people can work out on the outdoor gym equipment in parks but caution is urged.

Cafes and restaurants can seat up to 10 patrons at any one time but they must comply with the four-square-metre ruling. Pubs, sadly, still are not able to operate.

And, despite a number of rules being relaxed from May 15, the NSW Premier is still not eager to permit local or regional travel even though national cabinet is allowing states to do so.

From Monday, May 25

The NSW government aims to return children to school full-time.

– Sarah Keoghan



Golf, bonk bans and L-plater driving lessons – as Premier Daniel Andrews has noted, the fact these were three of Victoria’s sticking points during the strictest period of the state’s lockdown is a positive sign. “[New York] Governor Cuomo wishes he was having a debate about golf, let me assure you of that,” he said in April.

The Premier declared a state of emergency on March 16, giving the government and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton sweeping powers to enforce lockdown rules and it has now been extended to May 31. Victoria’s stage three restrictions began on March 30, after COVID-19 cases increased from 126 to 821 in two days.

Grey areas emerged as the rules were enforced. Driving lessons were banned, despite police revoking a 16-year-old L-plater’s $1652 fine. A man was fined for driving to a mountain biking trail before that too was revoked, with Sutton confirming you could drive to an exercise spot if necessary. That spot would not be a golf course in Victoria, however. While other states allowed a socially distant version of golf, golf and fishing were not on in Victoria.

As Australia’s curve flattened and other states allowed some relaxation on private gathering rules, the Premier stood firm. The easings of restrictions, he said, were “the first safe, cautious and appropriate steps” back to normal life.

The rules from Wednesday, May 13

Before, Victorians (as with other Australians) could leave home for only four reasons: food and supplies, medical care, exercise (in maximum groups of two) and work or education. From 11.59pm on May 12, there’s a fifth reason: visiting friends and family.

Five guests are allowed in homes. But don’t get too ambitious with it. “It is not an invitation to be having a dinner party at every house every night,” the Premier has said. “We have to use our common sense. We have to be proportionate, recognise that this is far from over.”

Ten people are allowed to hold public gatherings, including to play sport. This means Victorians can now return to the golf course or have a kick of footy with up to 10 people. And fishing is allowed – but you have to socially distance, so be careful how many people you put in a boat. Religious gatherings, auctions and open-house inspections are all back on the menu – but only for up to 10 people. Professional sports teams, including AFL clubs, are allowed to return to training too.

For funerals, 20 people can now attend indoors and 30 outdoors.

Victorians should keep working from home where possible.

Shops are open with social distancing but leisurely window shopping is not really on – the government says to shop only if necessary. Restaurants and cafes are open only for takeaway, with the Premier hoping that, when they do open in June, it will be at a greater capacity than 10. The pub schnitzel could also be back in front of you before too long as the government looks to re-open the eating-only areas of pubs.

Public playgrounds, pools, outdoor gym equipment and caravan parks stay out of bounds. National parks are open again but no camping is allowed.

Victorians are discouraged from local or regional travel and may not spend the night away from their homes, aside from at their partner’s home.

An announcement on a return to face-to-face learning before the end of term two is expected in the week of May 11. But while other premiers have provided some detail on changes further down the track, Victorians will have to wait until June.

– Michael Fowler



Even putting out the bins became an opportunity to frock up during the stay-at-home period. Hervey Bay resident Danielle Askew’s Bin Isolation Outing group on Facebook now has more than 1 million members, all of whom have been wearing costumes – from dinosaurs to princesses – to wheel out their rubbish. Other Queenslanders seemed to struggle with the new normal. One woman spent a night behind bars and was fined $2000 for checking out of quarantine at a Brisbane hotel, blaming the lack of fresh towels.

And three youths who decided to have drinks on a Gold Coast rooftop were joined by unexpected guests who arrived via a helicopter with a loudspeaker. “This is the police, this is the police! To the three people sitting on the building rooftop, yes, we can see you – the one with the hoodie in the middle with your cold drinks,” the PolAir officer said. “The building is surrounded by police, we need you to return to the ground floor, return to the bottom immediately please.”

What are the rules now?
Queenslanders have already been given the green light to travel up to 50 kilometres from their home for recreational reasons. Restrictions were eased further for Mother’s Day to allow up to five people from one household to visit another household – but no hugging.

Schools have started a staggered reopening with all kindergarten, prep and year 1 students as well as year 11 and 12 students in high schools returning to classes. Most schools are developing pick-up and drop-off procedures to maintain social distancing at the school gate.

From Friday, May 15

From 11:59pm, Queenslanders will be able to gather in groups of up to 10 people from any household in many settings including parks, restaurants, cafes, beauty salons and public libraries.

Public amenities including pools and parks will be fully reopened and open homes and auctions will be able to be staged with the 10-person limit.

Weddings can have 10 guests while funerals will be allowed up to 20 mourners for an indoor service and 30 for an outdoor function.

The recreational travel limit will also be extended to 150 kilometres from your home.

In outback areas, some of which have not seen a single COVID-19 case at any stage of the pandemic, the above restrictions will be in place but with limits of 20 people, while people will be allowed to travel up to 500 kilometres from their home for recreational activities.

From Monday, May 25

The remaining primary and high school year levels are allowed back in full with schools expected to have developed plans to incorporate them while maintaining social distancing, both at pick-up and drop-off, as well as in classrooms.

From Friday, June 12

At 11:59pm, restrictions will be eased even further under stage two of the national roadmap, including

Gatherings at homes with a maximum of 20 visitorsDining in at restaurants, pubs, clubs, cafes and RSLs for up to 20 patrons at a time and an option for more with an approved COVID-safe planHoliday travel within your home region.

From Friday, July 10

At 11:59pm, stage three of the national roadmap will include

Gatherings of up to 100 people at homes, cafes, restaurants, bars, places of worship, cinemas, galleries, gyms, funerals and weddingsNightclubs, tattoo parlours and casinos to openHiking and camping allowed in national and state parks.

The Premier has said she will look at reopening borders, although that would be dependent on how other states are dealing with their case numbers.

It is expected that, by this stage, travel within Queensland will be almost totally unrestricted, with the government urging people to consider taking a holiday to help bolster the tourism industry.

Under all stages of restrictions easing, social distancing measures will remain in place, including increased cleaning of public spaces and maintaining physical distance of 1.5 metres from other people where possible.

– Stuart Layt, Danielle Cronin


Western Australia

By the time Premier Mark McGowan announced an easing of social gathering restrictions to up to 10 people from April 27, many locals were ready to break out the bubbly and party. And in outdoor spaces, socially distanced Mother’s Day celebrations with up to 10 adult relatives and their children were encouraged.

All public state schools are now open, with an average 70 per cent of students attending, thanks largely to special measures and cleaning in place to reduce the risk of infections and spread.

The Premier has allowed a week for people to prepare for rule changes.

From Monday, May 18

Non-work gatherings, indoor and outdoor, are capped at 20 people. Cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars, community clubs and casinos can have a maximum of 20 seated dine-in patrons, counting both those inside and outside, with staff on top of that, as long as they can still observe the 4-square-metre rule. A pub can only serve a drink with a meal. Reopening pubs just for drinking will be considered for a later phase. And, recognising that some businesses will not have the space to accommodate 20 people while still observing the four-square-metre rule, the government will this week communicate with local governments on a temporary arrangement to relax the relevant laws to help restaurants expand their alfresco areas. Cafes and restaurants would be encouraged to expand alfresco boundaries where possible.

Weddings and funerals are capped at 20 attendees indoors, 30 for outdoors.

Places of worship, community facilities and libraries will reopen, capped at 20 attendees.

Non-contact community sports are capped at 20 people, indoor or outdoor. Yes, people can kick a ball to each other. They are encouraged to keep such equipment as clean as possible.

Fitness classes are capped at 20 people, indoor or outdoor. Only those with minimal shared equipment such as yoga or dance (no spin classes).

Public pools are open but only for 20 patrons per pool, one indoor and one outdoor. Further rules apply.

Retailers are encouraged to reopen in accordance with the 20-person, four-square-metre rules.

Employees are encouraged to return to work unless unwell or in a vulnerable category as previously defined. If businesses feel they can do this safely before May 18 it is up to them but if staff are vulnerable they should be encouraged to stay home. The 20-person rule need not be observed but employers were expected to continue to observe the increased hygiene, distancing and vigilance practices.

Travel will become easier with 13 bordered regions reduced to just four. The Perth/Peel borders will incorporate the South West, Wheatbelt and Great Southern. The Mid-West, Gascoyne and Pilbara will form another bordered region while the Kimberley and Goldfields remain segregated, except for the Commonwealth’s biosecurity zone. A big part of those decisions rested on the vulnerability of the Indigenous communities, as well as the Goldfields having one of the last active cases of the virus.

But the state’s hard border to overseas and interstate travellers remains in place, which requires anyone entering WA to go into quarantine for 14 days.

From mid-June
Changes are likely to include further relaxation of the restrictions on social gatherings, cafes, weddings, funerals, restaurants, regional travel, pubs, playgrounds and outdoor gym equipment, skate parks, beauty salons, cinemas, gyms, indoor sports, health clubs, real estate auctions, zoos, galleries, museums and concert venues.

Later changes
Western Australia’s hard state border would probably be the last restriction lifted. Rottnest Island will remain a quarantine centre for the time being.

The Premier will make announcements regarding further phases soon.

– Emma Young, Aja Styles



Premier Peter Gutwein’s message on “Fortress Tasmania” has been consistent: the state will “continue to march to the beat of our own drum” on social restrictions. Tasmania was the first state in Australia to enforce a lockdown. As of March 19, all “non-essential” travellers, including returning residents, were made to quarantine at home for 14 days. This soon changed to hotel quarantine, such as for returning international travellers in Sydney and Melbourne. Tasmanians were told to leave their holiday shacks, too, as authorities door-knocked and issued fines to those in regional and coastal communities without good reason.

In early April, north-west Tasmania had one of Australia’s earliest and largest significant outbreaks, leading to 5000 people spending 14 days in isolation. Gutwein imposed the “toughest restrictions in the country” on the region, with non-essential businesses shut and visitors banned.

Rules began to ease from May 11 as Tasmania recorded three days without a new case. Visits to aged care facilities eased, allowing up to two people to visit once a week. National parks and reserves re-opened for residents to exercise within 30 metres of their homes.

Changes to the rules now

On May 11, funeral limits increased from 10 to 20, and aged care visits opened to two visitors, once per week. State border restrictions remain in place, including bans on regional travel – but exercise is allowed up to 30 kilometres from home.

From Monday, May 18

Public gathering limits will increase from two to 10, and up to five for household visits. This will be reviewed for stage 2 on June 15.

Gatherings of up to 10 (including weddings and religious gatherings) allowed. Retail stores are open but there are limits on patron numbers in beauty services, restaurants and cafes, including restaurants in pubs, hotels and RSLs, allowed to open for 10 customers with social distancing.

From Monday, May 25

Primary school, plus year 11 and 12 students, will return to classrooms with all remaining students in years 7 to 10 back on June 9. Students at high risk of illness will be supported to learn at home for all of term 2.

From Monday, June 15
Public gatherings, including restaurants, cinemas, museum, religious gatherings and weddings will be increased to 20. The number of visitors to households will also be reviewed on that date.

– Michael Fowler


South Australia

South Australians are reaping the rewards for their impressive suppression of coronavirus, enjoying the return of many freedoms ahead of other states. Between April 11 and May 11, there were just 11 cases in the state, and only one after April 22.

The state’s most notable restriction was the closing of its state borders on March 24, like Queensland and Western Australia, with any visitors required to self-isolate for 14 days. On March 27, a 10-person limit on gatherings was introduced. While Premier Steven Marshall encouraged South Australians to follow two-person gathering laws, the state didn’t enforce them with fines as other states did.

School students returned to school as usual on April 27 while, at universities and TAFEs, face-to-face learning was allowed to resume from May 11.

What are the rules now?

Visits from up to 10 people are allowed as long as there is enough space to keep 1.5 metres apart and four square metres per person indoors. As of May 11, regional travel is being encouraged and camp grounds and caravan parks were re-opened, making South Australia the first state to do so. Restaurants and cafes are open for 10 patrons if they sit outside, auction and home inspections have restarted, while up to 30 can attend an outdoor funeral. Public swimming pools and places of worship have reopened, although gathering numbers of maximum 10 still apply. Funerals are excepted (20 people allowed indoors, 30 people outdoors).

From Monday, June 8
The plan is to open cinemas, gyms, galleries and museums, with maximum gathering numbers increased to 20. “We’ve done well. But let’s not become complacent as we enter this next stage,” the Premier said. “We do not want to go backwards.” Restaurants, including pubs, are also expected to open for proper table service.

– Michael Fowler



The ACT has had 107 cases and has experienced the second-smallest number of deaths in Australia at just three. There is now pressure on the national capital to follow border-friend NSW in reopening restaurants and cafes, as the ACT decided against changing takeaway-only rules for now.

What are the rules now?

Household visits are capped at 10 people both inside and outside with social distancing. Weddings can have 10 attendees, while 20 people can attend an indoor funeral and 30 an outdoor one. Boot camps can take place outdoors with a maximum of 10 people. And a 10-person limit also applies to places of worship. Pubs, restaurants, cafes are takeaway only.

ACT Health is advising Canberrans to only travel outside of the Canberra region to visit family and friends for the purpose of providing care and support. Two adults and any dependent children can leave the ACT and enter New South Wales for the purposes of providing care and support.

From Monday, May 18

Students will begin to return to public schools for a staggered reopening of schools.

– Sarah Keoghan


Northern Territory

With just 30 cases of COVID-19, the territory was the jurisdiction least affected in Australia. It also quickly became the most envied, after NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced on April 29 that pubs could reopen on May 15. From then, pubs can serve alcohol with meals but will be able to properly reopen with a two-hour limit from June 5. His exact words were “May 15 date night; June 5 Sunday sesh.” With no deaths to date in the state, it seems the state’s Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie had much to celebrate, with his “social distancing dance” going viral on social media.

What are the rules now?

Since May 1, there have been no limits on household visits, although social distancing must be upheld. Weddings and funerals have no limit as long as social distancing guidelines are adhered to. Playgrounds, parks and reserves will also be reopened. Public swimming pools and water parks also have the green light, and NT residents are allowed to go fishing with friends and play golf. You can shop at your leisure but thre’s no eating at food courts just yet. Pubs, restaurants, cafes are serving takeaway food and drink only.

People are already allowed to visit parks, reserves and campgrounds but are being encouraged to travel only if well.

The NT Government has told parents students are expected to attend school in term two.

From Friday, May 15

Restaurants, clubs and bars, beauty parlours, masseuses, indoor religious gatherings, libraries, museums and outdoor sports training are allowed to open with a two-hour limit and strict social distancing. Tourism attractions and wildlife parks can reopen as can on-site indoor and outdoor guided tours and live shows. Any indoor guided activity must run for less than two hours.

From Friday, June 5

The two-hour limit will be removed. Team sport will resume, gaming venues will reopen as will cinemas, theatres, nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

– Sarah Keoghan

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