Australians had been slowly emerging from Covid-19 lockdowns since the federal government announced a three-stage plan in May to ease restrictions across the country, but from 8 July the Melbourne metropolitan area and Mitchell shire immediately to the north returned to a stage three lockdown for six weeks.
After consistently high case numbers despite the lockdown, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced further restrictions for the state. From 2 August, metropolitan Melbourne entered a six-week stage four lockdown, while a stage three lockdown took effect across regional Victoria and Mitchell shire from 6 August.
Here we try to answer some of the most common questions people have about the laws in each state, based on the information current as of 26 August.
These answers should not be treated as legal advice. This article will be updated as new restrictions are announced, implemented, or repealed.
Victoria coronavirus outbreak: what are the rules and do they apply to me?
Melbourne entered stage four restrictions from 6pm on Sunday 2 August, a statewide mandatory mask policy took effect from midnight Sunday 2 August, and regional Victoria entered stage three restrictions from Thursday 6 August.
You can read all about the rules and recommendations around masks here.
You can read all about Melbourne stage 4 restrictions and coronavirus lockdown rules here.
You can read all about regional Victoria stage 3 coronavirus restrictions and lockdown rules here.
Details on restrictions in other states and territories can be found below.
How many people can I have over at my house?
New South Wales – On Sunday 19 July, the government issued advice asking people not to host, or go to, a gathering of more than 10 people at home. But the law in NSW currently allows 20 people from different households to visit. There is no limit to the number of guests you can have over per day, as long as there are no more than 20 at a time and guests can stay overnight.
Queensland – On Saturday 22 August, the government issued new advice in response to recent Covid-19 positive cases. Brisbane City, Cherbourg, Gold Coast, Goondiwindi, Ipswich, Logan City, Scenic Rim Regional, Somerset Region, South Burnett, Southern Downs, Lockyer Valley, Morteon Bay, Toowoomba, Western Downs and Redland City local government areas have been listed as restricted areas. Gatherings at homes in these areas are now restricted to a maximum of 10 people. Gatherings at the homes in all other parts of Queensland are now restricted to 30 people.
Tasmania – You can have up to 20 visitors over.
Western Australia – Since 27 June, you can have as many guests over as long as there is no more than one person per two square metres.
South Australia – From midnight 5 August, up to 10 people can visit your home (reduced from 50).
Northern Territory – There is no limit on how many people can gather indoors or outdoors, but you must keep 1.5 metres between you and anyone with whom you don’t live.
ACT – There is no limit on household visitors.
How many people can gather outside?
New South Wales – Currently public gatherings of up to 20 people are allowed. On 1 July community sport for children and adults returned, including contact sports. The Public Health Act says organisers must ensure that venues do not exceed the four square metre per person rule, up to a limit of 500 participants (which includes players, officials and spectators). Associations must also have a Covid 19-safety plan.
Queensland – Brisbane City, Cherbourg, Gold Coast, Goondiwindi, Ipswich, Logan City, Scenic Rim Regional, Somerset Region, South Burnett, Southern Downs, Lockyer Valley, Morteon Bay, Toowoomba, Western Downs and Redland City local government areas have been listed as restricted areas. Gatherings in public spaces are restricted to a maximum of 10 people, except for businesses operating with a Covid-safe plan. Gatherings in all other parts of Queensland are restricted to a maximum of 30 people, again these limits do not apply to businesses operating with a Covid-safe plan.
Tasmania – Up to 500 people are allowed in an undivided outdoor space.
Western Australia – There is no limit on the number of people allowed at public gatherings.
South Australia – There is no limit on the number of people allowed, as long as there is no more than one person per two square metres.
Northern Territory – There are no limits on gathering in the NT, but you should maintain physical distancing.
ACT – Up to 100 people can gather together outdoors.
Can I visit someone in an aged care facility?
Please note that in every state, all visitors must have received this year’s flu vaccination, unless they have a documented medical contraindication to receiving the vaccine. Visitors cannot enter an aged care facility if they have recently been overseas, been in recent contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19, or are feeling unwell.
New South Wales – NSW Health provides guidelines for residential aged care facilities. Residents should only have one daily visit with a maximum of two visitors (immediately family or close friends), no large group visits or gatherings, and all visits should be short and take place in the resident’s room, outdoors or a specified area (instead of a communal area).
Queensland – Visiting restrictions are in place for residential aged care facilities in 15 local government areas – including Brisbane City and Gold Coast City. Residents are not allowed any personal visitors, as well as other restrictions. In all other areas aged care residents can have up to two visitors at any one time. There is no limit on the number of visits allowed in a day or the length of each visit.
Tasmania – As of Monday 22 June, residents in aged care facilities can have multiple visits of two people, with no restrictions on the length of visits or the total number of visitors they receive in a day. Residents are permitted to go outside on trips, and hairdressers can be allowed in. Children under 16 are also allowed in. Additional visitors are allowed for the purpose of end of life support, or if needed to reduce distress and confusion given a residents’ medical condition.
Western Australia – Each resident in an aged care facility can have one care and support visit a day, with up to two visitors at a time. Only immediate social supports, like family members and close friends, professional help or advocacy services can attend.
South Australia – Residents can have one visit per day. Up to two people can visit them at the same time for the purpose of providing care and support. As of 20 June, children under the age of 16 years can visit, and aged care facilities can approve additional visits if this is appropriate or necessary.
Northern Territory – Residents can have up to two visitors at a time, and visits should be kept short. Children aged 16 years and under are not allowed to visit those in aged care facilities, except for special circumstances.
ACT – Residents can have one visit per day, of up to two people, for the purposes of providing care and support. Visits cannot last more than two hours. Those aged 16 years or younger can only visit on compassionate grounds for the purpose of visiting a resident at the end of life.
Can I eat at a restaurant, cafe or pub?
New South Wales – Yes, but from Friday, 17 July, new limits applied on how man people can be inside cafes, bistros and restaurants. Group bookings are limited to 10 people, with venues observing the four square metre per person rule up to a cap of 300 people at any one time. A dedicated marshal must oversee social distancing at all venues with a capacity greater than 250 at all times, while a marshal is only required during lunch and dinner peaks at hotels with a capacity less than 250. All diners must provide their name and contact details, including a phone number or email address, to allow for contact tracing. Food courts have reopened.
Queensland – Yes, restaurants, cafes, pubs, registered clubs, RSL clubs and hotels (with a Covid-Safe Checklist) can seat any number of patrons as long as the four square metres per person limit is observed. Venues with a floor space less than 200 square metres can have a maximum of 50 people, not exceeding a limit of one person for every two square metres.
Tasmania – Up to 250 are allowed in an undivided space, as long as there is no more than one person per two square metres. Up to 500 people are allowed in an undivided outdoor space, density requirements also permitting.
Western Australia – Yes, cafes and restaurants (including in pubs, bars, hotels, casinos, clubs) can open to up to seated diners, with one person per every two square metres. Venues are allowed to serve food and alcohol to non-seated patrons. There is no requirement for businesses to maintain a patron register.
South Australia – Yes, as of 29 June, restaurants, cafes, pubs, food courts, nightclubs and casinos can open, as well as standing hospitality venues. There is no limit on the number of people allowed, as long as there is no more than one person per two square metres. However, alcohol can only be served to seated patrons from 5 August. Communal food, like buffets and salad bars, are not permitted.
Northern Territory – Yes. All businesses are allowed to reopen as long as they have a Covid-19 plan. The two-hour limit has been lifted, meaning night clubs can reopen. You will be able to purchase alcohol from a bar. Licensed gaming activities, including TAB, will start again.
ACT – Yes, restaurants, cafes and other hospitality venues offering seated dining can host up to 100 patrons in each indoor or outdoor space, as long as there is one person per four square metres. This limit excludes staff. Bars, pubs, and clubs can serve alcohol in groups of up to 10 seated patrons, without a meal. From 10 July, food courts will be allowed to open to seated patrons.
How far can I travel on holiday within my state?
New South Wales – There are no limits on travelling within the state, including for a holiday. A number of caravan parks and camping grounds have reopened.
Queensland – You are allowed to travel anywhere in Queensland for recreational purposes, other than in certain designated remote communities. Camping and holiday accommodation sites, including caravan parks, are allowed to open.
Tasmania – There is no limit on where you can go within the state.
Western Australia – Residents are allowed to leave their homes for recreational activities including picnics, fishing, boating or camping. Recreational travel to most nearby regions is now allowed, except to some remote Aboriginal communities.
South Australia – There are no restrictions on travel within South Australia. Some Aboriginal communities across the state have chosen to close access to their townships and lands to non-essential outside visitors. Non-essential visitors to these communities have to quarantine for 14 days and be granted permission.
Northern Territory – There are no restrictions on travel within the Northern Territory.
ACT – There is no limit on where you can travel.
Can I visit another state?
New South Wales – As of Friday 7 August, residents returning from Victoria will be required to go into mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days. From Saturday 8 August, Queensland has closed its border to people from NSW or the ACT and anyone who attempts to enter without a permit will be turned away at the border. Residents can travel to Tasmania if they haven’t been in a designated hotspot, but they will be required to undertake government-supervised quarantine. Only those with exemptions can travel to Western Australia. Residents travelling to South Australia will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Those travelling to the Northern Territory who have been in a declared hotspot will be required to undertake government-supervised quarantine at a cost of $2,500 per person. The entire greater Sydney region is now classified as a hotspot.
Queensland – Since 10 July, anyone can enter Queensland unless they have been in a Covid-19 hotspot in the previous 14 days, in which case they will be refused entry. This includes anyone who has visited any part of Victoria, , NSW and the ACT. Residents travelling to Tasmania will be required to self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive in the state and people from Queensland can’t travel to WA unless they have an exemption.
Tasmania – From 7 August visitors from South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia may enter without going into quarantine, but they must apply first and declare that they have not been in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland or the ACT in the preceding 14 days. Travellers from the “safety bubble” states will have to undergo a mandatory health check upon arrival, and anyone with coronavirus symptoms will have to take a mandatory test, and remain in hotel or home quarantine until the results are received. All travellers from the other states, including returning residents, must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Non-Tasmanian residents must carry out their quarantine in government-provided accommodation.
Western Australia – You cannot enter Western Australia unless you are granted an exemption on application. On Sunday, 20 July, the WA government tightened the rules around exemptions for anyone who has travelled from, or through, NSW or Victoria. There is no date for when the interstate border will reopen.
South Australia – People from Queensland, WA, the NT and Tasmania can enter South Australia without having to quarantine for 14 days. The South Australian government has not set a date to welcome visitors from other states. South Australian residents will not be allowed to return to their state from Victoria unless they are essential travellers. As of 28 July, this restriction was hardened, removing the ability for a resident to return from Victoria and quarantine for 14 days. From 21-28 August, people who live close to the border who come and go for school, work or for shopping are not allowed into South Australia unless they can comply with essential traveller requirements. From 28 August, the 40km buffer zone will be reinstated.
Northern Territory – You can enter the Northern Territory provided you fill out a border entry form up to 72 hours from entering and present your application upon entry. You will be required to legally declare you have not been in an area the state considers a Covid-19 hotspot in the past 28 days. Penalties of up to $5,000 fines and up to three years in prison apply for providing misleading information on this border entry form.
However travellers from hotspots – including Victoria, Greater Sydney and Port Stephens in NSW – cannot enter the NT freely. They will have to complete 14 days of mandatory self-quarantine, at their own expense, which is $2,500 per person. Residents returning to the NT from these hotspots will be made to undergo the same quarantine. Greater Brisbane and the Gold Coast were previously included in this list, but were removed on 4 September.
ACT – People who are not ACT residents may not enter the ACT from Victoria, unless they hold an exemption. ACT residenets are required to enter quarantine until 14 days after leaving Victoria.
How many people can attend a wedding or funeral?
New South Wales – From 24 July weddings and corporate events are limited to 150 people, subject to the four square metre rule. Funerals and places of worship are limited to 100 people. People attending weddings and corporate events must remain seated. “No dancing, no singing, no mingling,” the premier Gladys Berejiklian has said.However, when it comes to funerals, places of public worship, funeral homes, or crematoriums can have up to 50 attendees, ignoring the four square metre rule, provided non-household contacts can maintain 1.5 metres of physical distance. Those attending will have to provide their name and contact details for contact tracing, if necessary.
Queensland – No more than 100 people are allowed to attend weddings and funerals conducted at a professional venue. Private wedding and funeral services performed in public areas and spaces in the restricted local government areas can have a maximum of 10 people attend including the bride, groom and marriage celebrant. Private wedding services performed in public areas and spaces not within restricted local government areas can have a maximum of 30 people attend including the bride, groom, wedding party and marriage celebrant.
Tasmania – Up to 250 people can gather in an undivided indoor space, and up to 500 people can gather in an undivided outdoor space. In both cases, the number of people present must also not exceed one person per two square metres.
Western Australia – There is no limit on the number of people who can gather together, as long as there is no more than one person per two square metres.
South Australia – Weddings can have up to 75 attendees, not including the celebrant, venue staff or any other person required to facilitate the wedding. Up to 75 can also attend a funeral. This excludes those officiating the funeral or any staff required to carry out the funeral. If the ceremony involves food or drinks, no shared utensils can be used. Social distancing must be observed.
Northern Territory – There is no limit on the number of attendees.
ACT – Up to 100 guests can attend weddings or funerals, as long as there is no more than one person per four square metres. Under stage three rules, expected to be introduced in July, attendance limits will require four square metres per person.
Can I go to church?
New South Wales – The number of people in a public place of worship must not exceed 100, and the four square metre physical distancing rule must be observed. The state’s chief health officer has urged congregations to reconsider activities that might spread the virus-like group singing and passing round of collection baskets.
Queensland – Yes. Places of worship can have one person per four square metres. However, if the place of worship is less than 200 square metres, then the venue can have one person per two square metres, up to a total of 50 people at either private or public services.
Tasmania – Yes, up to 250 people can gather in an undivided indoor space, as long as there are two square metres per person.
Western Australia – Yes, attendance is limited only by the two square metre rule.
South Australia – Yes, attendance is limited only by the two square metre rule.
Northern Territory – Yes, but you can only be there for less than two hours. There is no limit on how many people can attend a place of worship at the same time.
ACT – Up to 100 people, the four square metre rule permitting, can attend religious ceremonies and places of worship, not counting those conducting the ceremony.
Are schools back in session?
New South Wales – Yes, all students went back to school full-time on Monday 25 May. New restrictions for public schools were announced on 17 August, including the banning of graduation ceremonies, formals and choirs.
Queensland – Yes, all students are back at school as of Monday 25 May.
Tasmania – Yes, as of 9 June, all students have returned to the classroom.
Western Australia – Yes, all students returned on 18 May. Parents and visitors are also now allowed on school grounds. Events and activities such as assemblies, excursions, choirs, exams, sports training and swimming classes can resume, in line with distancing requirements. School libraries can also open for up to 100 people in a shared space at a time. From 27 June, all gathering limits, including the 100/300 rule, will be removed.
South Australia – Yes, they reopened for term 2.
Northern Territory – Yes, since 20 April all NT students have been expected to physically attend school.
ACT – Yes, all students have returned to school as of 2 June.
Can I shop for clothes and other ‘non-essential’ items?
New South Wales – Yes.
Queensland – Yes, retail shopping for non-essential items is back on.
Tasmania – Yes, you are allowed to leave your home to use businesses or services that are allowed to operate, which includes retail stores.
Western Australia – Yes.
South Australia – Yes.
Northern Territory – Yes.
ACT – Yes.
Are salons, spas and other beauty services open?
New South Wales – Hairdressers, barbers, as well as nail waxing, tanning and beauty salons, and tattoo and massage parlours can open, but must allow four square metres per person within the premises and should minimise personal contact with the customer.
Queensland – Yes, beauty therapy and nail salons, tanning salons, tattoo parlours, spas, and non-therapeutic massage parlours (with a Covid-Safe checklist) can open to up to 100 people on site.
Tasmania – Yes, hairdressers and barbers can open. Beauty services and day spas can reopen withno cap on the number of people allowed inside, as long as there is one person per four square metres. Saunas and bathhouses will be allowed to open from 13 July.
Western Australia – Yes, all beauty services, including nail, tanning and waxing salons, as well as saunas, bath houses, wellness centres, float centres, spas and massage centres may reopen, for up to one person per two square metres.
South Australia – Yes, hairdressers and barbers, along with beauty salons, nail and tattoo parlours, non-therapeutic massage providers, spas, saunas and bathing can open, as long as the total number of people on site doesn’t exceed one person per two square metres.
Northern Territory – Yes, hairdressers, and nail, massage and tanning salons, tattoo and piercing parlours and any other beauty services can open.
ACT – Yes, hairdressers and barbers are allowed. Beauty therapy businesses, including nail salons, tanning and waxing services, day spas, including massage parlous and tattoo businesses are allowed to reopen to up to 100 people, but cannot exceed one person per four square metres, including staff. They must keep a record of customers to enable contact tracing, if needed.
What about cinemas, entertainment venues, museums and libraries?
New South Wales – Museums, galleries and libraries, National Trust and Historic Houses Trust properties are allowed to reopen to guests, as long as four square metres is allowed per person and they have a Covid-19 safety plan. For venues with 40,000 seats or less, attendance to a ticketed event with allocated seating must not exceed 25% of capacity. The total number of people in a major recreational facility hosting a non-ticketed or non-seated event must not exceed one person per four square metres (excluding staff), to a maximum of 500 people. Alcohol can only be served to seated patrons.
Queensland – Libraries, museums, art galleries, historic sites, indoor cinemas, concert venues, theatres, arenas, auditoriums, stadiums, nightclubs, outdoor amusement parks, zoos and arcades are allowed to host up one person per four square metres if the venue is larger than 200 square metres. If it is smaller than 200 square metres, they can host one person per two square metres but no more than 50 people.
Tasmania – Up to 250 people can attend each undivided space in indoor recreational facilities, such as libraries, arcades, play centres, cinemas, museums, national institutions, historic sites, and galleries, the two square metre rule permitting. Up to 500 people are also allowed per undivided outdoor space.
Western Australia – Community facilities, libraries, galleries, museums, theatres, auditoriums, cinemas, and concert venues can all reopen, along with Perth Zoo, wildlife and amusement parks, arcades, skate rinks and indoor play centres. All venues can have as many people, as long as there is one person per two square metres. The two square metre rule only includes staff if the venue holds more than 500 patrons. There is a 50% capacity cap on major sport and entertainment venues, such as the Optus Stadium, HBF Park and RAC Arena. All events are allowed, except for large scale, multi-stage music festivals. Unseated performances can go ahead at concert halls, live music venues, bars, pubs and nightclubs, and the casino gaming floor will be allowed to reopen under temporary restrictions.
South Australia – Libraries, community and youth centres, cinemas, theatres, galleries and museums can have one patron per two square metres. Indoor play centres, arcades and amusement parks are also allowed to open. Swimming in public pools is allowed.
Northern Territory – Public libraries, art galleries, museums, zoos, cinemas and theatres, music halls, nightclubs, amusement parks, community centres, stadiums, sporting facility and similar entertainment venues can open.
ACT – Up to 100 people are allowed at cinemas and movie theatres, indoor amusement centres, arcades, outdoor and indoor play centres, betting agencies, outdoor amusements and attractions, community and youth centres, galleries, museums, national institutions, libraries historic sites and zoos. There can only be one person per four square metres throughout the venue. Organised tour groups of up to 20 people (excluding staff) will be permitted, as long as they run for less than two hours. Audiences must remain seated at live performances.
Can I go to the gym? What else can I do for exercise?
New South Wales – Yes, gyms, fitness centres, and studios (like dance studios) are allowed to open for up to 20 people per class. The total number of people in a facility must not exceed one person per four square metres, excluding staff. Indoor pools and saunas will also be allowed to reopen to up to 20 people. Community sporting competitions and training can go ahead as long as the number in a facility does not exceed one person per four square metres, excluding staff, to a maximum of 500 people. You can use outdoor gym equipment in public places, with caution, and engage in recreational activities like fishing, hunting and boating.
Queensland – Yes, gyms, health clubs, yoga studios and community sports clubs can open for up to one person per two square metres up to a total of 50 people if the indoor venue is 200 square metres or less. Indoor venues larger than 200 square metres can have one person per four square metres. People can gather outside, play non-contact sport, and participate in outdoor group training and boot camps with physical distancing . Parks, playgrounds, skateparks and pools are open with physical distancing rules.
Tasmania – Yes, up to 250 people are allowed in an undivided indoor venue, as long as there are two square metres per person. A multi-purpose Outdoor gathering limits have increased to 500. Full contact training and full competition sport (contact and non-contact) is allowed, as is the sharing of equipment, change rooms and other facilities.
Western Australia – Gyms, health clubs, and indoor sports centres can reopen for up to one person per two square metres. Gyms can operate unstaffed but must undergo regular cleaning. Contact sport and training can also recommence, and playgrounds, outdoor gym equipment and skate parks can be used.
South Australia – Yes, gyms and indoor fitness classes can operate, subject to the one person per two square metres rule. Outdoor and indoor training and competitions for non-contact is allowed, as is the use of golf courses, tennis courts and public gym equipment.
Northern Territory – Yes. Gyms, fitness studios, and indoor training activities like Cross Fit are allowed to operate. You can also officiate, participate and support team sports, like football, basketball, soccer and netball.
ACT – Yes. Indoor gyms and fitness centres are allowed to reopen to up to 100 people in any enclosed space, as long as there is only one person per four square metres. Patrons are allowed to take part in circuit training, individual weight training, and use gym equipment. That includes yoga, barre, pilates, and spin facilities, boot camps, personal training, swimming pools, organised sport activities, and dance classes. Up to 20 people can take part in outdoor bootcamps and other non-contact training or sport. Full contact training for sport, dance and martial arts, as well as circuit training, is allowed. Communal facilities, such as change rooms, can reopen if a risk assessment has been done and a strict cleaning regime has been put in place.
Who decides if I am breaking the new laws?
Generally, enforcement will be left up to the discretion of police officers.
States have expressed different approaches, for example, the ACT says it will be issuing a warning in the first instance, while Victoria has adopted a more hardline attitude to those break social distancing rules.
NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller said he would personally review all physical-distancing fines issued in the state.
“If I think it’s unreasonable, it will be withdrawn immediately and we’ll make personal contact with the individual,” he said.
What are my options for challenging a fine?
Not all states have specified this, however, it appears these fines can be appealed using the same process as other fines issued by police.
Information on how to lodge an appeal should be available on your state or territory’s government website.
• Due to the unprecedented and ongoing nature of the coronavirus outbreak, this article is being regularly updated to ensure that it reflects the current situation at the date of publication. Any significant corrections made to this or previous versions of the article will continue to be footnoted in line with Guardian editorial policy.