Between health advice, quarantine and isolation directions, social distancing and more, the coronavirus pandemic has sparked no shortage of questions.
Many of us are still confused about what we can and can’t do, and a lot of it depends on which state or territory you live in.
The advice is changing all the time, but here’s what we know so far about some of the most frequently asked coronavirus questions.
Can I visit my parents?
At the moment, the advice is that families split across two houses can meet, so you are allowed to visit your parents or a sibling.
But all the social and physical distancing rules are still in play, so try to keep 1.5 metres between everyone as much as possible.
If your parents live far away or interstate, it becomes a little harder.
In most states and territories, there’s now a mandatory quarantine period if you’re crossing the border.
You can apply for an exemption in some states for reasons like work or on compassionate grounds, but if you’re only going for a school holiday catch-up, you may not be able to see the people you want to see for two weeks anyway.
In WA for example, intrastate boundaries have now been introduced, dividing the state into nine separate regions with checkpoints.
If you are unwell or have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, do not go and see your parents (or anyone else).
Police have checkpoints set up at border crossings around the country — and they might not be as happy to see you as they were to see Django the dog who was crossing the SA border. (Reuters/Tracey Nearmy)
What about grandparents or elderly relatives or friends?
This varies across the different states and territories — especially where looking after young kids is involved.
The national advice allows for “providing medical, healthcare or compassionate services (i.e. taking on the role of a carer)”.
But Victoria, for example, has been pretty clear that social or babysitting visits to see the grandparents should be off the table in the state.
If you have family in an aged care facility, there are definite visitation restrictions there.
If you’ve returned from overseas in the last 14 days, been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days, have a fever or respiratory illness symptoms or you’re under 16 (except in special circumstances), you can’t visit a residential aged care facility.
Residents can’t have more than two visitors at a time (so no large groups), including doctors, and some visits may be cut short.
Again, if you’re sick — don’t go and see anyone, especially elderly people.
Try to get elderly relatives set up with some kind of online video chat, just like Daniel and Georgia here, who were able to see their grandparents for Daniel’s birthday. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi)
Can I see my friends?
We know it’s tough, but catching up with friends in person may not be the best idea right now.
You can’t gather with any more than one other person who doesn’t live in your household, and you shouldn’t be leaving the house at all unless it’s essential.
Some states have outlined exceptions to this like caring for others and compassionate grounds, so if you have a friend who needs some help, you may be able to visit them solo, depending on where you live and your reason for doing so.
If you are seeing a friend, try and maintain the 1.5 metre distance rule, wash your hands regularly and don’t sneeze on people.
If you or your friends are sick, have come into contact with COVID-19 or have regular contact with a vulnerable person, DO NOT GO.
There are stacks of apps that you can use to keep in touch with your friends and family — we’ve listed some of our favourites here.
We know it’s hard, but unless it’s essential, catch-ups and adventures with friends should be postponed for now. (Reuters//Loren Elliott)
If I don’t live with my partner, can we still see each other?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions our readers have been asking.
Unfortunately, it’s not super easy to answer and it depends on where you live.
PM Scott Morrison announced at a recent press conference that a family split across two houses could see each other, but that didn’t specify whether a boyfriend or girlfriend counts as family.
Then it was up to each state and territory if they wanted to make that legally enforceable or not, and they’ve all worded their rules slightly differently.
Triple J’s Hack program looked into what each state’s verdict is on visiting partners more closely, and found that for most states, yes, you can visit your partner, as long as you’re not being silly about it.
The rules are still unclear for WA and the ACT though.
Originally in Queensland, residents were allowed to leave home to provide care to an “immediate member of the person’s family” — which appeared to rule out visiting a partner unless you’re married.
But on Thursday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said “if there is one or two extra people that come into your house, that is not going to be breaching the law” (so we’ll take that as a yes, that your partner can visit).
Tweet @VictorianCHO Regarding ‘Stay at Home’ rules: We have no desire to penalise individuals who are staying with or meeting their partners if they don’t usually reside together
NSW and Victoria were originally also against visiting partners, but both states have relaxed that this week, and SA and the NT are not yet enforcing the rule that would mean you can’t see a partner.
As with relatives, if you or your partner are unwell or have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, do not go and visit them. You can FaceTime to your heart’s content.
Are picnics allowed?
Unless you can come up with a way to have an “essential picnic”, you shouldn’t really be packing the basket right now.
Most parks are still open (depending on your local council), but the overarching rule is that you shouldn’t be leaving the house unless it’s to buy food (to eat at home) or other essential items, for medical assistance or caring for someone else, to go to school or work if it can’t be done from home, or for exercise.
Some beaches are also closing because of people flouting social distancing rules — you may have seen the busy photos of Bondi Beach in NSW or St Kilda in Melbourne — so it’s not recommended you take a delicious spread there either.
If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard though, laying out some blankets and packing up the esky for a home-picnic could be a fun school holiday activity.
Authorities (and everyone obeying outdoor gathering rules) were pretty upset about this photo taken at Bondi Beach in late March. (AAP: John Fotiadis )
Can I go for a drive?
Depends, are you going somewhere essential?
There are no rules that specifically say you can’t be on the road right now (so long as you’re a licenced driver in a registered vehicle of course), but if you’re not leaving the house for essential reasons, you should be staying home.
Some areas, particularly at state borders, have checkpoints in place — if you don’t have a valid reason to be moving through those areas, you may face some tough questions from police or Border Force officials.
You also shouldn’t be travelling with more than one person who’s not in your immediate household.
The two-person rule doesn’t apply to workplaces, so you may be able to travel with more than one passenger in a taxi or Uber (but these rules are being enforced differently between the states and territories).
Now isn’t the time for a road trip.
Can I take the kids for a quick play on the playground?
All playgrounds were closed as part of the latest round of restrictions, as well as skate parks and outdoor gyms.
Some areas are also closing dog parks, so it’s best for human children and fur children to stick to playing in the backyard at home for now.
It’s not ideal that playgrounds are all closed right as the school holidays are starting, but it’s for everyone’s safety. (AAP/Darren England)
Can I take the boat out and go fishing?
We’ll say it again — if it’s not essential, you shouldn’t be doing it.
The Queensland Government said this week that boaties can still take their boats out locally for fishing or travelling, but only for essential reasons, including catching fish for food, travelling to work, or using a kayak or stand-up paddleboard for exercise.
But, fishing and boating for leisure in Queensland is not permitted.
Other states haven’t said much on this yet, but Boating Industry Association president Darren Vaux has released a statement saying if you’re not going boating for an essential reason, don’t go at all.
“With Easter school holidays rapidly approaching, our boating community would normally be thinking of getting out on the water in a boat or personal watercraft with family and friends,” his statement said.
“In the face of this disease and to comply with government directives we must all holiday at home this year to help safeguard the nation.
“Recreational boating will have to wait.”
Tweet @MarkBaileyMP There are NO restrictions on boating for fishing or essential travel to from work or yr home in Queensland
Can I go to the dentist?
For dental emergencies, you should still be able to access a dentist — but if it’s not urgent you may not be able to get treatment right now.
The Federal Government announced level three restrictions on dentists across the country, which recommends that all routine dental examinations and treatments should be deferred.
It also includes a ban on any treatment that causes an “aerosol” (a spray of saliva) unless the patient is in serious pain or has other urgent medical needs.
In Victoria for example, all non-urgent public dental procedures have been put on hold for three months.
That includes general dental care, routine denture services, specialist care, oral health promotion, teaching clinics, day surgery procedures and the Government’s Smile Squad school dental program.
What if I need to take my pet to the vet?
For many of us, our pets are keeping us sane through all this craziness.
Right now, there’s no Federal Government restrictions on vets as long as everyone’s carrying out social distancing and hygiene measures as best they can.
Agriculture minister David Littleproud issued this statement to the Australian Veterinary Association last week:
“The Federal Government considers the role of veterinarians essential to the agricultural sector and therefore to our nation’s food security but also in protecting companion animals and our nation’s wildlife”.
Some vets are using ‘telemedicine’ or remote services where possible — these services all vary state to state though.
In Tasmania for example, taking an animal to the vet is specifically listed as an exception to the rules for leaving your house.
If your fur baby gets sick or hurt, you can still take them to the vet. If you’re quarantined or in isolation though, see if a friend, neighbour or family member can take them for you. (Reuters/Aly Song)
Can I move house?
In NSW, moving is listed as a reason you’re allowed to leave the house.
Victoria has also specified that you can leave home for the purposes of relocation.
Some other states have been less specific on this, but it may be difficult if you’re crossing state borders or through any inter-state checkpoints.
There are some moving-related exceptions to the leaving home rule, again depending on state, like if you’re unsafe in your home and/or experiencing domestic and family violence.
The two-person rule still stands though, and that limit extends to a gathering of members of your household plus one. This is something to consider if you think you may need help moving, as family members or friends may not be able to assist you.
Transport and logistics are currently classified as an essential service, so removalists can still operate. But, it’s best to call your company to check whether any of their processes have changed.
If you were thinking of moving house but haven’t got anything set in stone yet, it may be a good idea to stay put if you can — auction houses, real estate auctions and open house inspections aren’t going ahead right now, excluding private inspections.
What if I need to call an ambulance?
In an emergency, call 000.
Paramedics, police and firefighters are some of the most essential services we have, and are still on the job — but understandably, they’re pretty busy right now trying to keep the community safe, as well as themselves.
If you need an ambulance, and if you have coronavirus or if there’s a chance you’ve come into contact with it, tell the dispatcher and paramedics so they can help you appropriately.
Can I go camping, even if it’s somewhere remote?
The overarching rule here is that all non-essential travel should be cancelled.
Health authorities and police don’t want to see people travelling anywhere they don’t need to be right now — even if you’re going somewhere where it’s unlikely there will be many other people.
There’s a heap of restrictions on crossing state borders all around the country, so if you’re travelling interstate or even within the state in places like WA, you run the risk of being put into forced quarantine or turned back.
Plus, coronavirus is already stretching our health resources. If you get injured, sick or even start developing symptoms of COVID-19 while camping, particularly in remote or hard-to-get-to areas, there may not be a long line of ambulances, doctors and nurses waiting to assist you.
The Queensland Government closed all campgrounds in national parks, state forests and state-managed recreation areas late last month, and Victoria’s Chief Health Officer says no camping, fishing, hunting or boating.
New South Wales has also closed campgrounds and visitor centres, campgrounds in Tasmania and the NT are shut too, visitor facilities in ACT parks and reserves are out and authorities in WA has suspended campground bookings and urged people to postpone their trips (but to come back once this is all over).
The national advice right now is to cancel all non-essential travel — no matter where you’re going.
Tweet @WAParksWildlife Online campground bookings for Parks and Wildlife Service sites suspended indefinitely
What about hiking?
Many national parks around the country remain open for now (check your local council or State Government national parks website to make sure) but have a think about social and physical distancing rules before you lace up the hiking boots.
Tasmania has closed national parks completely, so walking and mountain biking are off-limits there.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service has closed high-visitation areas and historic sites, which could limit your hiking options too.
Multi-day walks and swimming spots in the NT are also a no-go, but some national park areas are still open for now.
Queensland has closed walking tracks, swimming areas, picnic areas and 4WD beach recreation areas, and Victorians have been told to limit their day-to-day activities outside the home (so a bushwalking trek isn’t recommended).
The two-person rule means you can only gather with one other person excluding immediate household members, so a group climb up your local mountain will have to wait.
If you fall or hurt yourself and you’re alone, that could be a problem. Similarly to camping, our hospitals and paramedics are pretty busy right now, so best to try and avoid any daredevil behaviour.
WA’s national parks remain open for now too, but people must obey the state’s new intrastate travel rules, and you can still access some areas in South Australia for now too.
Can I play a socially-distanced sport, like golf?
When even the Olympics are off, you know the sport situation is pretty serious.
A lot of sports facilities and clubs around Australia have closed completely, to be safe.
As far as the golf example goes, Golf Australia still recommends that clubs should close.
On the other hand, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton released a statement specifically saying “no golf”.
Ultimately it depends on individual clubs, so check with yours before you start practicing your swing.
Tweet @pennytimms Golf in NSW… now allowed again. Took 24 hours for that to be turned around
Sport is not excused from social distancing rules, including the two-person rule which effectively rules out all team sport.
Indoor and outdoor gyms must close, most pools are closed so swimming is out, the majority of dance studios have shut, and yoga, spin and barre studios have to close too.
You can still go for a run, provided it’s not in a group of any larger than two excluding your own household, or maybe try busting out the old aerobics videos (or at least a YouTube version of them).
Should I still get a flu shot?
The flu shot will not protect you from getting coronavirus — but it will lower your chances of getting sick and therefore more susceptible to other illnesses, and having to go to doctors surgeries or hospitals where staff are stretched, beds are limited and people who do have COVID-19 are.
Plus, if you end up with both influenza and COVID-19 at the same time, that’s really not ideal.
“We do know that people who were infected with both have had very bad outcomes,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told Channel 7.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told everyone to get their flu vaccines as soon as possible through their GP, pharmacist or workplace vaccine provider if available.
“This is particularly important for those in our community who are most vulnerable for the COVID-19 problem as well as flu. So unfortunately this is a double burden for our elderly members of our community,” he said.
The groups that are most vulnerable are:
- the elderly
- people with diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or chronic diseases
- young children
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly those over 50
- pregnant women
If you’re worried about physical distancing when going to the chemist or doctors, call ahead of time to chat with them about your options.
No matter where in Australia you are, it’s important to check what your state’s rules and directions are and stick to them. (AAP/Joel Carrett)
What will happen if I break the rules?
You can get in a lot of trouble.
Here’s the deal, state by state:
NSW: Breaking the two-person rule could result in fines of up to $11,000 and/or six months jail, with a $5,500-per-day fine if someone keeps breaking the rules.
ACT: The Territory is set to introduce an on-the-spot-fine scheme similar to NSW’s.
The main difference is NSW has issued a “direction” over leaving home without a reason, while in the ACT it is only “strong guidance”.
NT: Chief Minister Michael Gunner says authorities will not strictly enforcing the new National Cabinet recommendations about two-person gatherings right now, but warned people to stick to the advice.
QLD: The Queensland Police Service says police can issue on-the-spot fines of $1,334.50 for people and $6,672.50 for corporations for not complying with a public health direction.
But, the maximum penalty for an individual could be as high as around $13,000.
SA: Gatherings of more than 10 people remain an offence in SA, and those gatherings must also be restricted to one person per 4 square metres. The two-person rule remains strong advice, according to the SA Police Commissioner.
Individuals who don’t comply with the 10-person rule can be fined $1,000, while businesses face a $5,000 fine.
TAS: Non-compliance of the state’s latest restrictions can attract a fine of up to $16,800 or six months in jail.
VIC: Victoria police officers can issue on-the-spot fines of up to $1,652 for people and $9,913 for businesses who fail to comply with public health directions about gatherings and self-isolation.
Larger fines can be issued if the matter goes to court.
WA: Western Australia is set to introduce $1,000 on-the-spot fines for individuals and $5,000 fines for businesses who disobey the new rules, and is aiming to enforce the two-person gathering limit (but that’s yet to pass through Parliament).
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