Australia's coronavirus lockdown rules explained: can I still visit my partner and other questions

Matilda Boseley
Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Since Monday, many states have brought in sweeping new laws restricting social gatherings and under what circumstances someone is permitted to leave their home.

While politicians have said these rules are simple, it is clear the public still has a lot of questions.

In most states enforcement is left up to police officers’ discretion, therefore it is difficult to provide exact information on what is or isn’t allowed.

Related: Australia's strict new coronavirus social distancing rules explained: state by state guidelines

Here we try to answer some of the most common questions people have about the new laws based on the information, though these answers should not be treated as legal advice. An asterisk indicates Guardian Australia has sought clarification from the state or territory government and will update when it is received.

Can I visit my romantic partner if we don’t live together?

  • New South Wales – Although legislation would suggest the answer is no, police commissioner Mike Fuller said on Wednesday that yes, you are allowed. This is considered to come under the “care” exemption.

  • Victoria – Yes, while originally it appeared that you would not be allowed to see your partner, on Wednesday afternoon the Victorian chief health officer tweeted that an exemption to the no social visits rule would be made for partners.

  • Queensland – Yes, on Thursday Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said households are allowed to have two additional guests at a time, but physical distancing should still be observed when possible. Outdoor gatherings are limited to two, or members of the same household.

  • Tasmania – Yes. Tasmania has a broad definition of “social support” which is considered an essential reason for leaving the home. This allows for romantic partners and family members to still visit one another.

  • Australian Capital Territory – Yes, households are allowed to have two additional guests at a time, however, there must be at least four square metres per person indoors. Outdoor gatherings are limited to two, or members of the same household.

  • Western Australia – Yes. The way WA is enforcing the two-person law means households are allowed to have one guest at a time. You will not be permitted to travel between the nine WA regions unless it is on “compassionate grounds”.

  • South Australia and Northern Territory – Yes, there are currently no fines for leaving the house for non-essential reasons, however unnecessary socialisation is discouraged. Gatherings are limited to 10.

All states currently allow you to leave the home, and meet with one person to do exercise. This means you are allowed to meet your partner or a friend in public to exercise with them. Some states have limits on how far you can travel for exercise, however.

Can I temporarily move in with my partner during the lockdowns?

  • NSW – Yes, you are allowed to move house.

  • Victoria – Yes,* you are allowed to move house.

  • Queensland – Moving residences is not referenced in the legislation, Guardian Australia is seeking clarification.*

  • Tasmania, ACT – Yes, you are allowed to move house.*

  • WA – Yes, you are allowed to move house, but there may be restrictions on crossing regional borders.

  • SA and NT – Yes, there are currently no fines for leaving the house for non-essential reasons.

Can I take my dog for a walk?

Yes, in all states you are allowed to leave your home for exercise, which includes dog walking. Social distancing measures should be observed while out, and in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, WA*, Tasmania and ACT, you can only be joined by one other person or those in your household.

How far are you allowed to travel for exercise?

NSW Police officers ask people sitting in a park to move on. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

No states have specific rules on the distance you are allowed to travel to exercise, however many have appealed for people to use “common sense”.

  • NSW – You are allowed to drive across town however you aren’t allowed to travel hours out of the city.

  • Victoria – Premier Daniel Andrews said on Twitter exercise had to be local and not “driving for miles and being out all day”.

  • ACT – There are no official limits, however, people are encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel, and where possible avoid areas where they are likely to come into close contact with others.

  • Queensland and Tasmania – Not specified, however, the government urges residents to use common sense and avoid unnecessary travel.

  • WA – You are not allowed to travel between the nine regions of Western Australia without good cause, such as work or compassionate reasons. Therefore exercise should be limited to your region and unnecessary travel avoided.

  • SA and NT – There are currently no restrictions on the reasons for leaving your house, however, you are urged not to travel unless necessary.

Can my relatives babysit for me if we don’t live together?

The federal government is recommending those over 70, those with chronic illness over 60 and Indigenous people over 50, self-isolate as much as possible. However, no state will currently issue penalties to those who do not.

Therefore it’s recommended that elderly relatives do not look after children.

  • NSW – Yes, it counts as “care”.

  • Victoria – You are allowed to leave the home to provide caregiving, therefore likely yes.*

  • Queensland – Yes, this constitutes ‘care’. Households are allowed to have two additional guests at a time, but physical distancing should still be observed when possible.

  • Tasmania – Yes, it counts as “social support”.

  • ACT – Yes, however, households are only allowed two guests at a time and there must be at least four square metres per person indoors.

  • WA – Yes, families are generally exempt from the two-person gathering limits, however unnecessary social interaction is discouraged. You will not be permitted to travel between the nine WA regions unless you are caring for family members or on “compassionate grounds”.

  • SA and NT – Yes, as long as a maximum of 10 people are at the gathering.

Can I visit my immediate family if we don’t live together?

Related: Australia coronavirus shutdown: what is open, closed and banned under the current rules?

  • NSW – Generally no.* On Wednesday police commissioner Mick Fuller said visiting romantic partners counted as “care” and was therefore allowed, however when Guardian Australia asked NSW police if visiting immediate family was also constituted as “care” they said that social visits do not count. We will seek further clarification on this issue. You can, however, visit family if you are caring for them, delivering them food, assisting with medication, taking them to the shops if they require assistance etc.

  • Victoria – Generally no, social visits are not allowed. However, you can visit to deliver food, provide medical care and for “compassionate reasons”.

  • Queensland – Yes, households are allowed to have two additional guests at a time, but physical distancing should still be observed when possible and unnecessary social gatherings should be limited.

  • Tasmania – Yes, this falls under “social support”, however, only two visitors are permitted in homes at any one time. Guardian Australia is seeking clarification if this means there is a maximum of three people allowed or a household plus two guests.*

  • ACT – Yes, however, households are only allowed two guests at a time and there must be at least four square metres per person indoors.

  • WA – Yes, families are generally exempt from the two-person gathering limits, however, unnecessary social interaction is discouraged. The restrictions on travelling between WA regions also apply.

  • SA and NT – Yes, as long as there are a maximum of 10 people at the gathering, however, unnecessary social interaction is discouraged.

All states currently allow you to leave the home, and meet up with one person to do exercise. This means you are allowed to meet a family member in public to exercise with them. There are limits on how far you can travel for exercise, however, see above.

My kids live part-time with me and my partner. Are they still allowed to travel between homes?

Yes. Currently, all states allow you to uphold current shared parental agreements. This means you are allowed to drive your children to their other parent or carer’s residence, and they are allowed to visit your residence to pick children up.

Am I allowed to leave home if it’s an emergency or required by law?

Yes. All states allow you to leave your home if you are legally required to do so. You are allowed to flee violence, and you are allowed to leave if your house becomes uninhabitable.

Can I have social guests if I live alone?

All Australians have been urged to avoid unnecessary socialisation.

  • NSW and Victoria – No, social visits are not allowed.

  • Queensland – Yes, on Thursday Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that those who live alone could have a social guest. No more than two guests are allowed in a household at a time.

  • Tasmania – Yes, this falls under “social support”.

  • ACT – Yes, however, households are only allowed two guests at a time and there must be at least four square metres per person indoors.

  • WA – Yes, but only one person, or family.

  • SA and NT – Yes, but gathering must be limited to 10.

Can I get a coffee with a friend?

  • NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania – Yes, but only if it is takeaway and you have met a friend for the purpose of exercising.

  • ACT – Yes, as long as it is takeaway.

  • WA, SA and NT – Yes, as long as it is takeaway.

Related: Australia's coronavirus self-isolation rules: who has to do it and how it works

Can I give someone a lift to work, even if they don’t live with me?

  • NSW – Yes you can drive a colleague to work with you, however, it is unclear if you can leave the house to drive someone to their job if you do not also work there. If they can not drive themselves this is likely covered under “care”.* You can only take one passenger or anyone who is part of your household.

  • Victoria and Queensland – Yes you can drive a colleague to work with you. Driving someone else to work if they can not drive themselves likely falls under “providing care and support”. You can only take one passenger or anyone who is part of your household.*

  • Tasmania – Yes, this is considered “social support”. You can only take one passenger or anyone who is part of your household.

  • ACT – Yes, however, you can only take one passenger or anyone who is part of your household. It is encouraged you create as much distance between you and your passenger as possible, such as having them sit in the back seat.

  • WA – Yes, but you can only take one passenger, family member or anyone who is part of your household. You will likely require a letter from your work if you wish to cross the border into another region within the state.

  • SA And NT – Yes.

Can a tradesperson still come into my house to do work?

Yes, however only if it is for essential works. If it can wait, it should.

Physical distancing practices should be observed.

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 hard-line attitude to those break social distancing rules.

NSW Police commissioner Mick Fuller said on Thursday 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.