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Partners, parks and road trips: All the COVID-19 rules that have changed in the last 48 hours.

Anyone who’s watching the news right now will know that the rules around what we are and aren’t allowed to do in our new COVID-19 reality is changing by the day.

In different parts of the country, the state and federal Government rules on who we can see, where we can go, if we can go outside and for how long these measures will be in place are changing rapidly to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Given how quickly the virus spreads, it can be difficult to keep up with what was OK yesterday and isn’t today, and vice versa.

Here’s a breakdown of all the COVID-19 rules that have changed in the last 48 hours.

WATCH: All your COVID-19 questions, answered. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia
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Visiting partners and friends.

As of midnight Monday, March 30, all public gatherings are now limited to two persons in public spaces and other areas of gatherings. But what does that actually mean?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this applies for inside and outside your house, and accordingly, the following outdoor areas have been closed:

  • Public playgrounds
  • Outside gyms
  • Skate parks
  • Bootcamps also restricted to two people.

The biggest questions that arose from this announcement were: can I visit my partner and family members I don’t live with? The answer depends on which state you live in.

In Victoria, Premier Andrew Daniels and Police Minister Lisa Neville initially said no, Victorians could not visit a “partner for social reasons.”

As of Wednesday, April 1, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton tweeted visiting a partner you don’t live with is exempt from the rule.

“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. We’ll be making an exemption. Hope that helps,” he clarified.

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In NSW, the NSW Police Commissioner Mike Fuller said people could “absolutely” visit their partners because “that’s under care”.

On Sunday night, it was not made entirely clear by Scott Morrison whether you could visit family you don’t live with. It has since been clarified you can still visit members of your family who you do not live with. This means families that are split over two households can still visit each other, including children who live with parents across two households.

You can find out more about the two-person rule in our explainer here.

Going to the park – what you can and can’t do.

For many, going to a local park has been a huge part of staying sane and maintaining physical and mental fitness.

Under new rules, or ‘strong guidance’ in some states, you can still go to a park, but only to exercise. This means: running, walking, doing yoga or other forms of exercise. What this doesn’t mean is sitting on park benches, reading on the grass or lying out to get some sun.

This week, NSW Police have been handing out warnings to those not observing these rules at popular locations like Coogee Beach, Rushcutters Bay and Centennial Park. In Victoria, police will be approaching people hanging out in groups of more than two. Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton was asked on the ABC if two friends with babies could go for a walk together. His answer: No.

You can find out more about exactly what you can and can’t do while going to a public park in our explainer here.

Who shouldn’t leave the house at all.

At the time of publishing, there are groups of people who have been strongly advised not to leave home, however no fines are currently in place.

These people are: Those over 70, or over 60 and have a chronic illness, or over 50 and Indigenous.

Buying alcohol.

As of Tuesday, March 31, Liquorland, Vintage Cellars, Dan Murphy’s, BWS and Aldi are among some of the stores who have signed up to a voluntary code put together by bottle shop industry body Retail Drinks Australia to limit the amount of liquor customers can buy in one transaction.

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Beer, cider and pre-mixed spirits will be limited to two cases per transaction, wine to 12 bottles and cask wine and bottled spirits to two items each.

What you’re allowed to leave the house for.

Since Sunday night’s announcement, each state and territory has clarified what those rules look like for residents of their state. For example, what you can do in one state is, in some cases, different to what you can do in another.

Previously, the Prime Minister stated all Australians must stay home unless:

  • Shopping for what you need – although this should be done “as infrequently as possible”
  • For medical care or compassionate needs
  • To exercise “in compliance with the public gathering rules”
  • For work and education, if you cannot work or learn remotely.

You can read the full breakdown of reasons you can leave your home in each state and territory in our explainer here, but below are the main things that have changed over the last 48 hours.

New South Wales:

As of Tuesday, March 31, any person in NSW may be given an on-the-spot fine of $1,000 for leaving their house without a “reasonable excuse”. The maximum penalty is $11,000 or six months imprisonment (or both), which can be issued by a court. The new law allows an additional $5500 for each day the offence continues.

Victoria:

In Victoria, people have been given just five reasons they can leave the home. These are…

1. To obtain necessary goods or services.

2. For care or other compassionate reasons.

3. To attend work or education.

4. For exercise.

5. For other extenuating circumstances.

Queensland:

Queensland has eight specific reasons residents are permitted to leave their home, including the five listed above being observed in Victoria, as well as other reasons including obtaining medical treatment or other healthcare services, attending any court of Australia or to comply with or give effect to orders of the court and visiting a terminally ill relative or to attend a funeral.

Australian Capital Territory:

The ACT issued a statement saying there are requiring their resident to only leave their homes for the following reasons:

1. Shopping for what you need – food and necessary supplies.

2. Medical or health care needs, including compassionate requirements.

3. Exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements.

4. Work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely.

Tasmania:

In Tasmania, there are nine reasonable excuses for leaving your home, many of which echo the reasons listed above. Seeking veterinary services, volunteering and performing essential maintenance, or security inspections, of other premises owned or occupied by the person also made their list.

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Northern Territory:

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said police would not be enforcing the two-person rule right now – but encouraged people to do the right thing – and said their priority was to secure the borders and protect remote communities.

“If it’s something that needs to be enforced down the track, we’ll do that. Police are currently enforcing a limit on groups of 10.”

South Australia:

South Australia has similarly said they will not be enforcing the two-person rule in their state right now.

“The advice coming from the National Cabinet is that gatherings of two or more should be discouraged and we’d certainly be encouraging people to take that as strong advice, to limit the number of people that they’re engaging with other than family members,” South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said.

“But when it comes to enforcement we’ll be looking at that 10 or more rule.”

Western Australia:

As of right now, Western Australia won’t be fining their residents for leaving the house, but they still strongly encourage those in WA to follow the guidelines outlined by the Prime Minister.

However, on Wednesday, April 1, new border restrictions came into effect which have seen the state divided into nine regions that residents cannot move between without good reason. Police are patrolling regional highways to curb unnecessary travel, and moving to another region without good reason could draw a $50,000 fine.

Where you can go in your state.

As previously stated, WA residents will be fined for travelling outside of their own regions without good reason.

In NSW, people have been advised not to travel outside of their local area. This is particularly important when it comes to regional areas affected by drought and bushfires. Not long ago, we were being urged to visit devastated regions, however now, going for a drive to rural and regional town centres could do more harm than good.

On Tuesday, March 31, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said now is not the time to travel from metropolitan areas to regional NSW for a holiday, for meetings, or even to relocate for a long period of time.

“We continue to battle the worst drought in recorded history, we have endured bushfires that took the lives of 25 people and destroyed more than 2,400 homes and what we don’t need is people spreading the virus across regional NSW,” he said.

“I know towns hit hard by the drought and bushfires are relying on holidaymakers to keep people in jobs and put food on the table, but right now health and safety is paramount and lives depend on every single one of us doing our part by staying at home.

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“If you live in the regions you must make the tough call to tell any friends and family in the city you’ll see them at Christmas, no sooner.”

How long will these rules last for?

At the time of publishing, only NSW has communicated a timeline for the enforcement of the current rules. The state which currently has the most cases of coronavirus in Australia says the current social distancing restrictions will stay in place in the state for 90 days.

“There was a good question yesterday about when is the turn off period for these health orders. It is 90 days. I certainly won’t be seeking an extension,” NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told the Today Show.

“Hopefully people will have gotten the message by then and we won’t be talking about the powers, we will just be talking about what does it look like coming out of this,” he added.

Feature image: Getty.

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face. If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

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