Australian states and territories have different levels of restrictions to contain Covid-19.
Here we answer some common questions about restrictions in each state, based on the information available as of 5 January.
This article should not be treated as legal advice. It will be updated as restrictions are announced, implemented or repealed.
Sydney’s northern beaches cluster
The northern area of Sydney’s Northern Beaches is under its own set of restrictions, updated from 2am on 3 January and in place until at least 9 January 2021.
Residents in the northern area can only leave their homes for a reasonable reason, including shopping for food and essentials and exercise, and can only leave the area for essential reasons, such as accessing services only available elsewhere.
A maximum of five people can gather outdoors in a public place for exercise or recreation, but all those people must be a resident of the northern area.
People are not allowed to enter the northern area of the northern beaches unless they’re going to their home, attending a funeral or buying food or using services not available outside the area. Travel through the area is allowed as long as a person does not leave their vehicle.
How many people can I have over at my house?
New South Wales: residences in greater Sydney, Central Coast and Wollongong are allowed a maximum of five visitors. In the rest of the state, people are allowed a maximum of 50 visitors in their homes at a time. However NSW Health strongly recommends having no more than 30 visitors at a time if the residence has no outdoor area. If there are more than 50 visitors at a home, every person can be held individually responsible for a breach of the public health order.
Victoria: people can have up to 15 visitors in their homes each day.
Queensland: you can have up to 50 people inside your home.
Tasmania: a maximum of 100 people are allowed to gather at residential premises (including shacks) whether inside or outside.
Western Australia: there is no limit to the number of guests you are allowed as long as there is no more than one person per 2 sq metres.
South Australia: gatherings in private homes are limited to 50 people. All gatherings must observe the density requirements of one person per 2 sq metres.
Northern Territory: there is no limit on how many people can gather indoors or outdoors, but physical distancing is required. Gatherings of more than 100 require the completion of a Covid-19 checklist.
ACT: there is no limit on visitors.
How many people can gather outside?
New South Wales: public gatherings in greater Sydney, Central Coast and Wollongong of up to 30 people are allowed. In regional NSW, public gatherings of 100 people are allowed. This limit does not apply if the group of people are all from the same household or if it is a controlled outdoor event.
Victoria: up to 100 people from any number of households can gather. 1.5 metres should be maintained between yourself and others not from your household.
Queensland: public gatherings are restricted to a maximum of 100; this does not apply to businesses operating with a Covid-safe plan.
Tasmania: up to 250 people are allowed in an undivided indoor space and up to 1,000 in an outdoor space, as long as there is at least 2 sq metres of space per person.
Western Australia: there is no limit on the number allowed at public gatherings as long as there is at least 2 sq metres of space per person.
South Australia: gatherings at public places are capped at 50, with density requirements of one person every 4 sq metres.
Northern Territory: there are no limits but you should maintain physical distancing. Gatherings of more than 100 will require completion of a Covid-19 checklist.
ACT: up to 500 people can gather together outdoors as long as 2 sq metres of space per person is maintained. If people wish to hold gatherings of greater than 500 people, they must seek an exemption in accordance with the COVID Safe Event Protocol.
Can I visit someone in an aged care facility?
In every state, all visitors must have received this year’s flu vaccination unless they have a documented medical contraindication. 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 feel unwell.
New South Wales: NSW Health provides guidelines for residential aged care facilities. No visitors are allowed at greater Sydney aged care facilities, except for visitors performing essential care functions, until 11.59pm on Wednesday 6 January. People from greater Sydney also cannot visit regional aged care facilities. There are no restrictions on people from regional areas visiting regional aged care facilities, unless they have been in a Covid hotspot, have Covid symptoms or are a close contact of someone who has Covid.
Victoria: there are no longer any restrictions on visits to care facilities in Victoria. People of any age can visit residents for as long as desired, as long as the rules set by the facility are followed. Face masks must still be worn.
Queensland: residents can have as many visitors as the facility allows, but people who have been in Victoria on or after 21 December 2020 are not allowed to enter residential aged care facilities unless 14 days have passed since they weres in Victoria. Employees, contractors, students, volunteers and support persons who have been in Victoria on or after 21 December 2020 may enter a residential aged care facility if the individual obtains a negative Covid-19 test in Queensland after returning from Victoria.
Tasmania: residents can have up to two visitors at one time. There is no limit on the number of visits in a day or the length of each visit. Residents are allowed to go outside on trips, and hairdressers can be allowed in. Additional visitors are allowed for end of life support, or if needed to reduce distress and confusion given a resident’s medical condition.
Western Australia: each resident can have one care and support visit a day, with up to two visitors at a time. Only immediate social supports, such as family and close friends, professional help or advocacy services can attend.
South Australia: people from NSW and people who have been in Covid hotspots are not permitted to visit SA aged care facilities. Aside from that, up to two people can visit at the same time for care and support. There is no limit to the length of each visit. Workers must wear a mask where physical distancing isn’t possible, and they can work at only one site.
Northern Territory: residents can have up to two visitors at a time. There is no limit on the number of visits in a day or the length of each visit.
ACT: residents can be visited by up to two people at a time. There is no limit on the number of visits in a day or the length of each visit.
Can I eat at a restaurant, cafe or pub?
New South Wales: yes, as long as venues observe the 4 sq metre per person rule up to a cap of 300 for each separate area at any time. All diners must provide name and contact details, including a phone number or email address, for contact tracing. Food courts have reopened.
Victoria: there are specific directions for differently sized indoor venues. Venues are capped subject to a density rule of one person per 2 sq metres, with no other cap. There are no longer any group booking limitations.
Queensland: restaurants, cafes, pubs, registered clubs, RSL clubs and hotels with a Covid-safe checklist can seat any number of patrons as long as the 2 sq metre per person limit is observed.
Tasmania: up to 250 are allowed in an undivided space as long as there is no more than one person every 2 sq metres. Up to 1,000 people are allowed in an undivided outdoor space, density requirements permitting.
Western Australia: cafes and restaurants (including in pubs, bars, hotels, casinos, clubs) can open to up to seated diners, with one person every 2 sq metres. There is no requirement for businesses to maintain a patron register, but they must display a COVID Safety Plan Certificate in a prominent location visible to patrons.
South Australia: restaurants, cafes, pubs, food courts, nightclubs and casinos have density requirements of one person per 2 sq metres.
Northern Territory: all businesses can reopen as long as they have a Covid plan.
ACT: restaurants, cafes and other hospitality venues offering seated dining can host up to one person per 4 sq metres. Venues can register to host one person per 2 sq metres.
How far can I travel on holiday within my state?
People are not currently allowed to travel to the northern section of Sydney’s northern beaches. Aside from that, the only restrictions on travel within states is in Western Australia and South Australia where there are some restrictions on visiting some remote Aboriginal communities.
Can I visit another state?
New South Wales: anyone can enter NSW. People from NSW who have been in Covid hotspots are restricted from entering all other states and territories.
Victoria: a permit system is in place for travel to Victoria from NSW. People are only eligible for permits if they are: transiting through NSW to Victoria from another state or territory; briefly passing through Victoria from another state or territory and are not staying in Victoria; or are a permitted worker. Victorians returning from NSW must apply for an exemption to return by calling the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398. Victorians who have not been in Covid hotspots are free to travel to other states and territories, except for WA.
Queensland: the Queensland border is open to all states and territories, unless you have been in a Covid hotspot in the last 14 days or since the hotspot was declared (whichever is shorter). Currently specific parts of New South Wales are hotspots. Anyone travelling to Queensland who has been in NSW at any time since 1am Friday 11 December must complete a Queensland Border Declaration Pass before they enter Queensland. Anyone (including all interstate visitors and Queensland residents returning home) who was in hotspot locations on or since Friday 11 December 2020 must follow testing and quarantine requirements.
Tasmania: There are no restrictions on Tasmanians travelling to other states and territories. Travellers who have been in high risk locations must apply for an exemption to enter Tasmania as an Essential Traveller for critical work, health, compassionate or other reasons. Tasmanians wanting to return home can provide evidence of residency and seek to complete the 14 days required quarantine at a residential address or other suitable premises. Travellers who have spent time in a medium-risk area in the 14 days prior to arrival in Tasmania are required to quarantine, either in a suitable premises or in government-designated quarantine (fees can apply).
Western Australia: travellers from medium risk states are not permitted to enter without an exemption through G2G PASS. If permitted entry, you must self-quarantine at a suitable premises for 14 days. If a suitable premises is not available, you will be directed to a government-approved quarantine facility at your own expense. Travellers from low risk states are allowed to enter with a G2G PASS, but must quarantine for 14 days as above. Travellers from very low risk states are allowed to enter with a G2G PASS without the need to quarantine.
South Australia: anyone travelling to SA must complete a cross-border travel registration. People from NSW are not allowed to enter unless they have an exemption. Residents returning to SA from NSW are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.There are no restrictions on travel from other states and territories.
Northern Territory: you can enter provided you fill out a border entry form up to 72 hours before arrival and present it 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 and up to three years in prison apply for providing misleading information. Arrivals from a hotspot area must go into 14 days supervised quarantine at the traveller’s expense.
ACT: travellers who have been in Covid-affected areas of greater Sydney (including Northern Beaches), Central Coast or Wollongong areas are not permitted to enter ACT without an exemption. If you a returning ACT resident who has been in a Covid-affected area you must self-quarantine for 14 days. There are no restrictions on travel to other states and territories.
How many people can attend a wedding or funeral?
New South Wales: up to 100 can attend a wedding, subject to the 4 sq metre rule indoors and 2 sq metre rule outdoors. For weddings, up to 20 people in the wedding party are permitted on the dance floor. This applies only to members of the official wedding party and dancers cannot be rotated or substituted throughout the celebration. Funerals can be attended by up to 100 providing there is at least 4 sq metre per person. This applies to indoor and outdoor ceremonies. Those attending will have to provide name and contact details. In greater Sydney – which includes the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains – singing and chanting is not allowed at any indoor venue.
Victoria: Weddings and funerals are subject to a one person per two square metres density rule, with no other caps. A wedding or funeral held at a private residence is limited to up to 15 people. The four-square metre rule must be applied to limit the number of people on the dance floor and there can only be up to 50 people on the dance floor at one time, if space allows.
Queensland: up to 200 can attend weddings and funerals at a professional venue or private residence as long as a Covidsafe plan is in place. Private wedding services in public areas or private homes can have up to 100 people in outdoor public spaces and 50 people in private properties. A record of names and contact details of each guest must be kept for 56 days.
Tasmania: in commercial spaces, up to 250 can gather in an undivided indoor space, and up to 1,000 in an undivided outdoor space. In both cases, the number present must also not exceed one person per 2 sq metres. Up to 100 people can gather at private residences. Rules apply to the number of people allowed to consume alcohol while standing.
Western Australia: there is no limit as long as there is no more than one person every 2 sq m.
South Australia: weddings are capped at 200 for commercial premises, 50 for private residences, and all attendees must register with SA Health. Funerals are capped at 50. Density limits of one person every 2 sq metres apply to both.
Northern Territory: there is no limit but gatherings of more than 100 will be required to complete a Covid-19 checklist.
ACT: there is no cap on the number of people who can attend weddings or funerals, as long as there is no more than one person every 4 sq metres. However organisers for events for between 201 and 500 people are required to notify ACT Health and submit their COVID Safe plan (via the online form), and events over 500 will need an exemption in accordance with the COVID Safe Event Protocol. Dancing at weddings is permitted.
Can I go to my place of worship?
New South Wales: the number of people in a public place of worship must not exceed 100, and the 4 sq metre physical distancing rule must be observed. An outdoor religious service is subject to the one person per 2 sq metre rule.
Victoria: religious gatherings are subject to a one person per 2 sq metres density rule, with no other caps.
Queensland: places of worship can have one person per 2 sq metres.
Tasmania: up to 250 can gather in an undivided indoor space, as long as there are 2 sq metres per person.
Western Australia: attendance is limited only by the 2 sq metre rule.
South Australia: capped at 200. Attendance is limited only by the 4 sq metre rule.
Northern Territory: there is no limit on how many can attend at the same time but social distancing should be observed.
ACT: capped at 25 people across the entire venue. If a venue wants to have more than 25 people, it can have one person per two square metres of usable space in each indoor and outdoor space (excluding staff) provided they are using the Check In CBR app.
Are schools back in session?
Students in all states and territories are currently on holidays so restrictions are not current.
Are salons, spas and other beauty services open?
Yes, hairdressers, barbers, nail waxing, tanning and beauty salons, tattoo and massage parlours have reopened across the country, except in Sydney’s northern beaches. Businesses must meet density limits, and, in South Australia, service providers must wear a mask. In Victoria, masks are strongly recommended for both the client and the person providing the service.
What about cinemas, entertainment venues, museums, libraries and open houses?
New South Wales: museums, galleries and libraries, National Trust and Historic Houses Trust properties are open to guests, as long as 4 sq m is allowed per person and they have a Covid-19 safety plan. For large venues attendance to a ticketed event with allocated seating must not exceed 50% 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 4 square m (excluding staff) with no maximum capacity.
Victoria: entertainment and cultural venues such as music venues, museums, indoor and outdoor cinemas, and the casino are open, subject to capacity restrictions. Night clubs are also able to reopen. Brothels and strip clubs have reopened, but must have Covid-safe plans in place and follow strict patron limits.
Queensland: libraries, museums, art galleries, historic sites, indoor cinemas, concert venues, theatres, arenas, auditoriums, stadiums, nightclubs, outdoor amusement parks, zoos and arcades can reopen with a Covidsafe plan.
Tasmania: up to 250 can attend each undivided space in indoor recreational facilities, such as libraries, arcades, play centres, cinemas, museums, national institutions, historic sites and galleries, the 2 sq metre rule permitting. Up to 1,000 are allowed in each undivided outdoor space.
Western Australia: community facilities, libraries, galleries, museums, theatres, auditoriums, cinemas and concert venues can reopen, as can Perth zoo, wildlife and amusement parks, arcades, skate rinks and indoor play centres. All venues can have as many people as the one person per 2 sq metre rule allows. 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 can reopen under temporary restrictions.
South Australia: venues are open, but density requirements must be observed, with a maximum of one person per 2 sq metres allowed at cinemas, theatres, concert venues, zoos, galleries, museums and historic sites.
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 are open.
ACT: 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 can sell seated (when applicable) tickets at no more than 50% of capacity of each venue. There can only be one person per 2 sq metres throughout the venue as long as the venue has the Check In CBR app.
Can I go to the gym? What else can I do for exercise?
New South Wales: gyms, fitness centres and studios (such as dance studios) may open for up to 30 a class. The total in a facility must not exceed one person in 4 sq metres, excluding staff. Indoor pools and saunas have also reopened subject to the one person per 4 sq metre rule in greater Sydney and one person per 2 sq metre rule in regional NSW. Community sporting competitions and training can go ahead as long as the number in a facility does not exceed one person every 4 sq metres, excluding staff, to a maximum of 500. You can use outdoor gym equipment in public, with caution, and enjoy activities such as fishing, hunting and boating.
Victoria: from 5pm on 31 December 2020 you must wear a fitted face mask when you are in a public indoor setting. This includes when exercising indoors in facilities such as gyms and recreation centres unless you have a lawful reason not to. When exercising where you are out of breath or puffing, a face mask is not required. You do not need to wear a face mask when exercising outdoors. Personal training is allowed and exercise in a group of up to 100 in a public place is permitted. For indoor exercise classes, the cap is 50 people. In general, gyms are subject to the one per 4 sq metre density rule when staffed and the one per 8 sq metres when unstaffed. Outdoor sport recreational facilities, such as tennis courts, golf courses or bowling greens, are open with some restrictions. Outdoor and indoor pools have opened, with restrictions on capacity.
Queensland: yes, gyms, health clubs, yoga studios and community sports clubs can open for up to one person per 2 sq 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: gatherings are limited to 1,000 people in the outdoors of a premises for community sport and 250 for an undivided space in an indoor premises, or a maximum of one person per 2 sq metres. Indoor pools are limited to 250 people in each single undivided space, or a maximum of one person per 2 sq metres. Outdoor pools are limited to a maximum of 1,000 people in the whole outdoor area of premises, or a maximum of one person per 2 sq metres.
Western Australia – gyms, health clubs, and indoor sports centres can reopen for up to one person per 2 sq metres. Gyms can operate unstaffed but must undergo regular cleaning. Contact sport and training has recommenced, and playgrounds, outdoor gym equipment and skate parks can be used.
South Australia: sport (including sports training), fitness and recreation activities are all subject to the one person per 2 sq metres rule.
Northern Territory: gyms, fitness studios and indoor training activities such as Cross Fit are allowed. You can also officiate, participate and support team sports, such as football, basketball, soccer and netball.
ACT: gyms and fitness centres are open to up to 500 people, subject to the one person per 2 sq m if they have the Check In CBR app and 4 sq metres per person if they don’t. Full contact training for sport, dance and martial arts, as well as circuit training, is allowed.
Who decides if I am breaking the new laws?
Generally, enforcement is left up to the discretion of police officers.
States have expressed different approaches. For example, the ACT says it will issue a warning while Victoria has adopted a more hardline attitude to those break social distancing rules.
NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller said he would review all physical-distancing fines.
“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 but it appears 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 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.