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Social gatherings and business closures during the COVID-19 outbreak

10-minute read

If you have severe difficulty breathing, call triple zero (000) immediately and tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival about your recent travel history and any close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19.

RESTRICTIONS — Use the COVID-19 Restriction Checker to find out what you can and can't do in your state or territory.

Why have some types of gathering, venue and business been restricted?

Some types of businesses, venues and gatherings have been restricted in Australia to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Most cases of COVID-19 in Australia are connected with people who have returned from overseas or who have been in close contact with someone who has confirmed COVID-19. However, the virus has also spread from person to person in the community, so limiting how and when people come into contact with each other will help slow and lower the transmission rate.

Changes to these restrictions form part of the Australian Government’s ‘Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia’, a 3-step plan to reopen the economy. See the next question for more information about this plan.

What is the Government’s ‘Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia’?

The ‘Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia’ is a 3-step plan to reopen the economy in ways that keep people safe from COVID-19 transmission. It’s up to each state and territory government to decide when to begin each step. The National Cabinet, made up of state, territory and federal leaders, will review their progress.

Step 1 aims to reconnect family and friends by allowing slightly more people to gather in public and visit homes. Some hospitality, shops and community areas will open, and kids will go back to school. Some domestic travel can occur and more people can attend weddings and funerals.

Step 2 will permit more people to gather in public and visit homes. Even more retailers and services can open, and there may be some interstate travel.

Step 3 will allow a further increase in the size of public gatherings and more domestic travel.

The plan’s timing and progress will depend on public-health advice, and states and territories won't move to the next step unless it's safe.

More information about the 3-step plan is available on Australia.gov.au.

RESTRICTIONS — Use the COVID-19 Restriction Checker to find out what you can and can't do in your state or territory.

How long will restrictions be in place?

The Australian Government is gradually easing restrictions, however, it’s up to each state and territory to decide which restrictions to relax and when. The progress will depend on medical advice. Authorities will only ease restrictions if it’s safe.

Can I leave my home?

Yes, unless you are self-isolating for 14 days, you can leave your home (or accommodation).

The following types of essential activities have always been allowed: attending medical and healthcare facilities (including pharmacies); shopping in supermarkets and shopping centres (with food courts takeaway only); working in office buildings, factories and on construction and mining sites; and going to school or university.

Where you can go, and how many people you can gather with in your region, depends on the state or territory. Find more information on restrictions in your region using the healthdirect Restriction Checker.

You should continue to practise physical distancing. Penalties, such as fines and jail sentences, may apply if physical-distancing rules are ignored. States and territories are responsible for enforcing this.

Wearing a fitted face mask in certain locations may be mandatory in some states and territories. Use the healthdirect Restriction Checker to find out if you need to wear a mask.

People over the age of 70 (over 65 for people with pre-existing medical conditions, or over 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with pre-existing medical conditions) are strongly advised — for their own protection — to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.

If you can, ask family, friends, neighbours or community members to shop for groceries or collect medicines for you.

My children live in a shared-care arrangement between my ex-partner and I. Can they keep moving between homes?

Yes. For families where children alternate between 2 households because of a shared-care situation, existing arrangements should continue.

How many people can I meet with?

Gatherings are limited to different numbers of people, depending on your state or territory and the activity.

Even though some restrictions are easing under the Australian Government’s 3-step plan to reopen the economy, you should continue to practise physical distancing and good hygiene.

To find out how many people you can meet with in your state or territory, follow the links below.

Penalties, such as fines and jail sentences, may apply if you don’t follow physical-distancing rules. States and territories are responsible for enforcing this.

Which types of business stopped operating?

Many kinds of business and services (see list below) were suspended or restricted, but states and territories have lifted some restrictions in line with the Australian Government’s guidelines.

Types of business that were suspended due to COVID-19 include:

  • restaurants, cafes and dine-in food courts
  • pubs, clubs, nightclubs and casinos
  • cinemas and theatres
  • indoor and outdoor fitness venues such as gyms, fitness centres, swimming pools and sporting venues
  • health and wellness facilities including health clubs, yoga studios, gyms, saunas, bathhouses and wellness centres
  • real-estate auctions and open-house, non-private inspections
  • personal beauty services (spas, massage and tattoo parlours, nail, tanning and waxing salons)
  • strip clubs, brothels and sex-on-premises venues
  • amusement parks and arcades
  • indoor and outdoor play centres

‘Off-licence’ venues such as bottle shops have been open during this time.

Hairdressers and barbers have continued to operate, except in Victoria where they closed for a length of time. You must keep 1.5 metres from people you don’t live with, and strictly observe the rules of how many people can gather at these businesses.

Go to the healthdirect Restriction Checker for information on the businesses that are reopening where you live.

Can I visit community centres, public venues and outdoor spaces?

States and territories decide when to reopen these spaces. Check the healthdirect Restriction Checker to find out which types of community venue have reopened in your region.

The following types of community venue and activity have been closed or cancelled, but restrictions are gradually lifting:

  • places of worship, such as churches
  • some social and sporting-based activities
  • public swimming pools
  • community, youth and recreation centres such as RSLs and PCYCs
  • public libraries and community halls
  • public playgrounds, outdoor gyms and skate parks
  • galleries, museums, national institutions and historic sites

How many people can attend a wedding, funeral or religious service?

Weddings, funerals and religious gatherings are restricted to a limited number of people, depending on the state or territory in which you live. Attendees should practise good hygiene, and maintain 1.5 metres between each other.

If you are unwell, you should not attend.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the COVID-19 Symptom Checker to find out if you need to seek medical help.

Organisers may need a COVID Safety Plan and record attendee details for contact tracing purposes.

Use the healthdirect Restriction Checker to find out how many people can attend a ceremony in your region.

How can I celebrate annual events and other occasions this year?

Celebrations to mark annual events and other occasions will need to be a little different this year.

It’s still important to maintain physical distancing — especially with people outside your household — to wash your hands regularly, and to wear a mask where required.

Different states and territories may have different rules and they change frequently. You’ll find the latest information on your state government’s website.

There may be limits on how many people can gather, both outdoors and indoors, including at places of worship. These restrictions won’t necessarily change because of the holiday period.

Be aware of how many people can visit your home. If you want to gather in larger numbers, you may be able to do this in an outdoor public space such as a park or the beach.

If you’re celebrating at a venue such as a restaurant, the venue will need to take your details for contact tracing purposes.

To find out about gatherings restrictions in your state or territory, use the healthdirect COVID-19 Restriction Checker.

Do people who attend mass gatherings (such as protests, demonstrations or sporting events) need to self-isolate or be tested for COVID-19?

If you attend a mass gathering — such as a protest or sporting event — and do not feel unwell, you don't need to self-isolate or be tested afterwards.

If you have any symptoms at all, do not go to a mass gathering. Get tested and self-isolate until you receive your result.

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 — including people who have attended a mass gathering — should get a test for COVID-19. Stay home until the result is available. This will help with contact tracing, which may limit any outbreak that occurs.

How do I avoid COVID-19 infection when I go out?

VACCINATIONS — Find out how COVID-19 vaccines have been developed, how they work and when you might be eligible.

When you're out in public, it's important to maintain good hygiene and physical-distancing practices:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues and wash your hands immediately after.
  • Stay at least 1.5 metres from people you don’t live with as much as possible, and avoid crowded places.
  • Avoid contact with people who are unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Stay home if you are unwell.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Avoid shaking hands, hugging or kissing with people you don’t live with.
  • Wear a mask if you are in an area with community transmission, and where physical distancing is not possible, such as on public transport.
  • Wearing a fitted face mask in public is mandatory in Victoria, unless you have a lawful reason for not wearing one. Face shields, bandanas and scarves are not sufficient.

Looking for more information?

Visit healthdirect's COVID-19 information hub for more answers to questions about the coronavirus, or use these COVID-19 tools and resources:

RESTRICTIONS — Use the COVID-19 Restriction Checker to find out what you can and can't do in your state or territory.

VACCINATIONS — Find out how COVID-19 vaccines have been developed, how they work and when you might be eligible.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the COVID-19 Symptom Checker to find out if you need to seek medical help.

Resources in other languages

COVID-19 resources in other languages are available from the Department of Health, as well as from the ACT, NSW, Qld, SA, Tas, Vic and WA health departments.

Information is also available in Aboriginal languages (NT).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2021


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