Australia’s three-step plan to re-open: What you can and can’t do

We break down the lockdown restrictions and state roadmaps toward a COVIDSafe Australia.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed a three-step plan to ease restrictions across the nation. In it are the baby steps that will be taken in order to return back to normalcy.

These steps detail the number of people allowed to visit households, maximum outdoor gathering numbers, the venues that are permitted to reopen, whether employees can return to work or not and where people can travel.

State-by-state restrictions

NSW travel restrictions and lockdown rules

Over the following months restrictions have changed rapidly around restaurants, weddings and school sports.

A mask mandate is in place for all of Greater Sydney when at specific indoor venues. This includes supermarkets, retail outlets, places of worship and public transport. Masks are not required while eating, communicating with the deaf or hard or hearing, if you're under 12 or if you have a valid health condition.

The northern zone of the Northern Beaches is under lockdown and residents may only leave their home for essential reasons.

At the moment, the following are allowed:

Travel and recreation

  • Regional and interstate travel for holiday purposes. At present ACT, the NT and Tasmania are open to NSW residents who aren't from a declared hotspot.
  • Caravan parks and camping grounds may reopen, without shared facilities.
  • All accommodation may reopen.
  • Holiday homes and holiday rentals can have a maximum of 5 people, unless everyone is a member of the same household.
  • Venues, including pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes, can seat up to 300 people at one time. A four-square metre per person rule applied. A maximum group number may be imposed and all customers details must be taken at any venue.
  • Tourist attractions such as zoos and aquariums may open, adhering to the 4 square metre rule. Tour numbers may be capped.
  • Libraries, art galleries and museums may reopen, capped at one person per 4 square metres.
  • Drive-in cinemas may reopen with no restrictions.
  • National Parks are open with no capacity restrictions.
  • Outdoor activities such as BMX biking, fishing, golf and lawn bowls are permitted with gathering restrictions in place.
  • Boat cruises, watersports and marine tours can recommence with vessels allowing no more than 25 customers abiding by the two square metre rule.
  • Vessels used for functions or commercial tours are capped at 50pax or no more than one person per four square metres.
  • Indoor stadiums, theatres and cinemas, may reopen at 75% seated capacity and up to 50 singers may be indoors.
  • Outdoor stadiums may open at 100% seated capacity along the two metre rule.

Everyday activities

  • Up to 5 visitors in a household at one time, regardless of age. Overnight stays are permitted.
  • Outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people, including the use of outdoor equipment and playgrounds.
  • Weddings up to 100 guests are permitted. A four square metre rule applies indoors and dancing is permitted for up to 20 people.
  • Religious service are limited to 100 patrons. A four square metre per person rule applies.
  • Funerals are limited to 100 patrons or the four square metre per person rule.
  • Outdoor religious gatherings are subject to a one person per two square metre rule.
  • Indoor events of at 75% capacity alongside a four square metre rule.
  • Up to 5 singers permitted indoors, distanced by 1.5 metres from one another and 5 metres from the audience. Worshippers may not sing.
  • Beauty and nail salons may reopen so long as they adbide by these strict hygiene requirements. Both customers and beauticians must wear masks.
  • Tattoo and massage parlours have reopen with no more than 20 clients at one time or one customer per four square metres.
  • Hairdressers and barbers are open, complying with the 4 square per metre rule. Capacity rules apply.
  • Food courts may open to up to 50 people, in line with the 4 square metre rule.
  • Outdoor pools can open with capacity capped at one person per four square metres.
  • Indoor sports and facilities, including gyms, bowling alleys, pools, health studios and ice rinks can open capped at no more than one person per four square metres.
  • Gym classes are restricted to 30 participants in Greater Sydney or 50 outside of Greater Sydney.
  • Childcare facilities, schools, universities and TAFE may open.
  • Betting agenies may reopen with no more than 20 customers at one time or one customer per four square metres.
  • Auction houses may reopen. Numbers are restricted by the 4 square metre rule.
  • Community centres with a maximum of one person per four square metres. All classes are capped at 30 participants in Greater Sydney or 50 outside of it.
  • Kids sports and community sports may recommence. Events are capped at 3,000 people. A four square metre rule applies.
  • Outdoor events that are fenced, ticked and seated are capped at 500. Events must be ticketed and seated. A one person per two square metre rule applies. Events outside Greater Sydney are capped at 3,000 people.

From 29 January

  • Indoor gathering limits will be increased to 30, including children
  • Outdoor gathering limits increase to 50
  • Weddings and funerals may have up to 300 guests, alongside the 4 square metre rule
  • Hospital venue capacities will be restricted only by the 4 square metre rule

Amusement parks and entertainment facilities such as night clubs are still closed.


Victoria travel restrictions and lockdown rules

On Friday, 12 February 2021, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has announced the state will enter a five-day circuit breaker lockdown due to a small outbreak from the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel near Melbourne Airport. For the five days ending at 11:59pm on Wednesday, 17 February, the following restrictions are in place state-wide:

  • You can only leave home for four essential reasons: shopping for essential items (and only one person, per house, per day can go), caregiving, exercise (limited to two hours per day), essential work or educaion
  • Private and public gatherings are not permitted
  • Restaurants and cafes are available for takeaway only
  • Masks are mandatory if you're outside your own home
  • Weddings are not permitted
  • Funerals can have a maximum of 10 people

From 18 Februrary, most restrictions will revert back to before lockdown. The main changes that have been highlighted are that work places may reopen at 50% capacity, households are limited to 5 visitors and public gatherings must not exceed 20 people.

Masks must also be worn in situations where physical distancing isn't possible.

These are the other rules that were in effect prior to lockdown. They are subject to change.

Travel and recreation

  • All intrastate travel is permitted with no restrictions
  • Accommodation may reopen, including campgrounds.
  • You may stay at your holiday home or private residence.
  • Outdoor gatherings of up to 20 people in a public space. This is across multipe households and includes outdoor group sports such as hiking, golf and kick-to-kick games.
  • National Parks can reopen.
  • Restaurants and cafes have reopened but are limited to 25 people before a two square metre rule applies. All must use an electronic record keeping program.
  • Indoor food courts are alongside the one person per two square metre rule.
  • Indoor entertainment such as cinemas, theatres, galleries and museums at 50% capacity, subject to density limits.
  • Outdoor entertainment spaces, including zoos and museums, can reopen with 500 capacity in line with the two square metre rule. There is a max group limit of 20 people.
  • Amusement parks can reopen at 25% capacity though venues with over 500 patrons must subject a COVIDSafe Plan.
  • Arcades, escape rooms and bingo centres can reopen to a max of 150pax.
  • Nightclubs can reopen for seated service online.
  • Karaoke centres can reopen based on the four square metre rule.

Everyday activities

  • Households may have up to 5 visitors per day. This can be split up across multiple times and groups.
  • Outdoor/social gatherings are limited to 20 people across multipe households.
  • Childcare and early education may reopen.
  • Primary school, VCE/VCAL and specialist school students may resume face-to-face learning.
  • Real estate inspections and auctions may resume with the two square metre rule limit.
  • Indoor and outdoor community facilties such as libraries and community venues can accept limits based on the two square metre rule.
  • Indoor pools are capped based on the four square metre rule. Outdoor pools are based on the two square metre rule.
  • Personal training permitted in groups of up to 20 outdoors.
  • Indoor religious gatherings permitted with limits capped based on the two square metre rule.
  • Weddings permitted based on the two square metre rule. Dancefloor numbers are capped at 50 people and are based on the four square metre rule.
  • Funerals permitted based on the two square metre rule.
  • Those in care may receive visitors, unrestricted.
  • Electronic gaming can recommence based on the four square metre rule. Gamers must remain 1.5 metres apart.
  • Beauty, personal care services and community facilities may reopen with a COVID-safe plan. The 4 square metre rule applies.
  • Sports and recreation activities may resume capped at 100 people outdoors or 50 indoors.
  • Public playgrounds, outdoor gyms and skateparks are reopen. There are no group limits.
  • Primary and high school students are to return to school.
  • Higher education and training can return to campus for summer programs.

Anyone who can work from home should continue working from home. Otherwise work places can reopen at 50% capacity.

Masks are no longer required outdoors but are when in an indoor setting that is not your own home where physical distancing is difficult.

Upcoming changes

None at the moment.


ACT travel restrictions and lockdown rules

The ACT is in stage 4 of its recovery plan, which commenced on 2 December 2020. The following are permitted, all with a two square metre per person rule in mind.

Travel and recreation

  • Regional travel.
  • Interstate travel is permitted. All states and territories are open without the need to quarantine.
  • All businesses and venues, including restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs and beauty services may reopen with 25 patrons. If the CBR app is used, this increased based on the one person per two square metre rule.
  • Cinemas, movie theatres, indoor amusement centres, play centres, concert venues and betting agencies may reopen at 65% caoacut. Maximum limits apply depending on the venue.

Everyday activities

  • Household visitations with no restrictions.
  • Gatherings of up to 500 people permitted including at weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies, gyms, bootcamps, community and social sport, open houses and auctions.
  • Full contact training for all sports.
  • Universities can provide face to face learning.

You may still work from home if agreed upon by your employer.

Upcoming changes

A moved toward COVID normal is expected from February 2021.


Queensland travel restrictions and lockdown rules

Queensland moved into stage 6 restrictions on 1 December.

The current permissions are below:

Travel and recreation

  • Unlimited recreational travel and stays within Queensland.
  • Restaurant, cafes, pubs, clubs, RSLs, hotels and casinos (no gaming) may reopen, with standing while eating and drinking is now permitted. The maximum number of patrons is based on the one person per two square metre rule.
  • Outdoor amusement parks, tourism experiences, zoos and arcades may reopen.
  • Outdoor businesses with a COVID Safe Plan in place can now have just 2 square metres per person (including in beer gardens, outdoor dining venues and theme parks).
  • Outdoor events with a COVID Safe Events Checklist can now have up to 1,500 attendees. Larger events require a COVID Safe Plan approved by a health authority.
  • Operair stadiums may open at 100% capacity.
  • Indoor events and venues such as concerts, theatres and indoor sports may operate at 100% capacity. Patrons must wear masks when entering and exiting the venue and performers must stay 2 metres from the audience, or 4 metres if they are a choir. These are ticketed,s eated events only.
  • Indoor cinemas may reopen.
  • Museums, art galleries, historic sites, libraries and cinemas may reopen, limited only by the 2 square metre rule.
  • All accommodation may reopen.
  • Hiking is permitted.

Everyday activities

  • Gathering limits of 50pax inside the home or 100 pax in a public space.
  • Weddings and funerals can have up to 200 people and dancing is permitted at weddings.
  • Indoor spaces, including gyms and places of worship can accept a maximum of one person per two square metres.
  • Outdoor non-contact activities, personal training, pools, health clubs, yoga studios, public spaces, parks, playgrounds, skateparks and outdoor gyms are permitted, subject to gathering limits.
  • Shops may reopen with a maximum capacity that complies with the 2 square metre rule.
  • Open homes and auctions may reopen.
  • Beauty therapy, nail salons, hairdressers, tattoo parlours and spas may reopen.
  • Sport and recreation may recommence with a COVID Safe plan which must include physical distancing and capacity limits.
  • Casinos, gaming and gambling venues as well as nightclubfs and beauty parlours may reopen with a COVID Safe plan.
  • Office workers may return to work.
  • Residental aged care and disability accommodation to have a restricted number of visitors in restricted areas.

Upcoming changes

The Queensland state borders are open to all of Australia, except South Australia.


South Australia travel restrictions and lockdown rules

As at 5 January, the following applies:

Travel and recreation

  • State borders across the nation are open, except to NSW.
  • Cinemas, theatres, galleries and museums have reopened. In large venues such as theatres capacity is capped at 75% if patrons wear masks and 50% if they don't.
  • Venues that are defined public activities, such hospitality and dining venues, sports, ceremonies, private functions, place of public entertainment nightclubs, auctions and gaming areas may reopen with the one person per two square metre rule in place. A contract tracing app is required alongside a COVID Safe Plan.

Everyday activities

  • Residental gatherings are limited to 50 people
  • Private gatherings are limited to 200 people.
  • Bootcamps, outdoor fitness and gyms are permitted/open.
  • Weddings, funerals and places of worship of up to 200 people, with the two square metre rule.
  • Aged care residents may entertain guests however you shouldn't visit if you're unwell or have been to a hotspot.
  • Beauty services may open but all staff must wear masks. Customers are also encouraged to wear masks.

State borders are open to all states and territories except NSW until further notice.

Travel restrictions on international students are in talks of being eased.


Northern Territory travel restrictions and lockdown rules

The Northern Territory is in Stage 3 of its COVIDSafe roadmap. As part of this stage the territory allows:

Travel and recreation

  • All regional travel for residents, including to East Arnhem Land.
  • Fishing with a mate.
  • Restaurants, cafes, clubs and bars, including licensed gaming, may reopen with no time limt restrictions. Alcohol does not need to be accompanied with a meal.
  • Cinemas, theatres, concert halls, music halls, dance halls, nightclubs and similar venues.
  • Community recreation centres and amusement parks.
  • Public libraries, toy libraries, galleries and museums.
  • Arena, stadium and sporting facilities may reopen with spectators. Any events with more than 500 people at the event must have an approved COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • As of 19 June, Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu National Parks have reopened.

All major events are being approved on a case-by-case basis.

Everyday activities

  • Playgrounds, parks, public skateparks, pools and outdoor gyms to be open.
  • Outdoor religious gatherings including weddings and funerals.
  • Open house inspections and auctions.
  • All team sports, including football, basketball, soccer and netball.
  • All beauty services, including nail salons, hairdressers, laser and cosmetic surgeries and beauty and tattoo parlours/
  • Gyms, yoga, Pilates, massages.
  • Indoor religious gatherings, including weddings and funerals.
  • Outdoor sports training.

A 1.5 metre physical distancing rule may be in place.

Northern Territorians are permitted to travel throughout Australia but may have to quarantine if they visit a hotspot while away.


Western Australia travel restrictions and lockdown rules

Western Australia is in Phase 4 of its COVIDSafe roadmap.

As part of this phase a 2 square metre per person rule applies to most venues, except for seated and ticketed spaces.

Currently the state allows:

Travel and recreation

  • Travel throughout Western Australia, including Rottnest Island and the Kimberley Region. However, travel to remote Aboriginal communitues is still prohibited.
  • Restaurants and cafés including pubs, bars, clubs, hotels and casino may reopen. A 2 square metre per person rule applies.
  • Alcohol may be served without a meal and in a standing capacity.
  • Recreational activities such as picnics, hiking, camping and fishing.
  • Public playgrounds, outdoor gym equipment, skate parks, cinemas, galleries, zoos, museums, amusement parks, wildlife parks, arcades, shake rinks, indoor play centres, concert venues and community facilities may reopen.
  • Major sporting events may resume subject to capacity limits.

Daily activities

  • Gathering limits based on the 2 square metre per person rule. This excludes staff in venues of 500 or less.
  • All events, including weddings and funerals are permitted, except large music festivals.
  • Food and beverage venues, including food courts, may reopen with no seating requirements.
  • Beauty therapy and personal care services permitted. This includes nail, tanning and waxing salons.
  • Saunas, bath houses, wellness centres, spas and massages may reopen.
  • Gyms, health clubs and indoor sport centres may reopen.
  • Indoor and outdoor contact community sport permitted, with gathering limits.
  • Face-to-face auction houses and real estate auctions permitted.
  • TAB and casinos may reopen for betting and watching.
  • Parents and guardians may enter school grounds to pick-up and drop off children.

Anyone from a very low-risk state or territory may visit Western Australia without needing to quarantine. Those from low-risk state or territory may enter but must quarantine and undergo a COVID-19 tests. Anyone from a medium or high risk can only enter with an approved exemption.

All visitors must have a G2G declaration pass.

Phase 5 will see the removal of the 2 square metre rule and allow access to remote communities.


Tasmania travel restrictions and lockdown rules

Tasmania is now in Stage 3 of its COVID roadmap. The following now applies:

Travel and recreation

  • Overnight trips across the state are permitted.
  • Camping, overnight boating and shacks may reopen for up to 100 people.
  • All accommodation may reopen, with common areas limited to 250 people and the one person per two square metre rule.
  • You may stay in holiday homes and shacks.
  • National Parks to reopen for exercise and travel purposes.
  • Restaurants and cafes can open to a maximum of 250 people in an indoor undivided space or 1,000 in an undivided space. The two square metre rule applies.
  • Standing and drinking alcohol and dancing is permittted for up to 100 people indoors or 250 outdoors, bearing in mind the two square metre rule.
  • Indoor venues, including museums, function centres, cinemas, museums, galleries, historic sites, theatres and concert venues may reopen at 75% capacity, capped based on the two square metre rule.
  • Outdoor sporting events can run at 75% of their seated capacity.
  • Boating is permitted.
  • Markets, bars, night clubs and casinos may reopen.
  • Food courts and food vans can reopen.

Daily activities

  • 100 visitors may gather inside a home.
  • Gatherings limits are determined by a density limit of 2 square metres per person. This is capped at 250 people in an indoor space or 1,000 in an outdoor space. This includes:
    • Beauty services such as facials, nail salons and tattoo studios;
    • Sporting venues including outdoor exercise equipment, playgrounds, indoor and outdoor sports, dance studios, bootamps and gynmastics;
    • Health clubs and wellness facilities including yoga studios and barre;
    • Auctions and open houses.
  • Funeral and wedding limits are based on the two square metre rule, up to 250 people indoors or 1,000 outdoors.
  • Aged care homes are allowed a select number of people per visit. This is dictated by the facility itself. Multiple visits per day are permitted.
  • All students may return for face-to-face teaching.
  • Racing may resume.
  • Spas and bathouses may reopen.

Interstate borders have reopened though you may have to quarantine when you return to Tasmania if you've visited a declared hotspot while away.

As we are still in a pandemic, you must still work from home if it works for you and your employer.

Upcoming changes:

None at the moment.

The Cabinet is reviewing the stages every three weeks. And while some states have noted their plans for Steps 2 and 3, these are all subject to change depending on the advice of health authorities.

Australia's three-step plan

Roadmap to COVIDSafe Australia

Step 1

  • 5 visitors at home, 10 in business and public places – this is regardless of age, so you can't have 5 adults and 5 children visiting a home
  • You can have 10 people in a business or public place
  • Work from home if it works for you and your employer
  • Restaurants, cafes, shopping, home sales and auctions may reopen
  • Libraries, community centres, playgrounds and outdoor bootcamps may reopen
  • Local and regional travel is allowed
  • Physical distancing rules still apply
  • All hygiene rules, including washing your hands regularly, staying at home if you feel sick and being tested even if your symptoms are mild still apply

Step 2

  • You can have gatherings of up to 20 outside of a home. These numbers may be larger in some states and territories than others, depending on the circumstance
  • Work from home if it works for you and your employer
  • Gyms, beauty therapies, cinemas, theatres, amusement parks, galleries and museums may reopen
  • Some interstate travel is allowed
  • Physical distancing rules still apply
  • All hygiene rules, including washing your hands regularly, staying at home if you feel sick and being tested even if your symptoms are mild still apply

Step 3

  • You can have gatherings of up to 100 people. As of 12 June, this rule has been replaced with the four square per metre rule. This means that venues can welcome can accommodate a maximum of one person per four square metres.
  • Workers may return to the workplace
  • Cross-Tasman, Pacific Island travel and international student travel may be considered
  • Food courts, saunas and bathhouses may reopen
  • All interstate travel is allowed
  • Physical distancing rules still apply
  • All hygiene rules, including washing your hands regularly, staying at home if you feel sick and being tested even if your symptoms are mild still apply

While there's no definitive timeframe for each step to be complete, Morrison said: "It is our goal to move through all of these steps to achieve that COVID-safe economy in July of this year."

Understandably, not every state will be at the same stage at the same time. To this, Morrison said that "states can, and will, move at their own pace". As such, states and territories are to decide for themselves when these changes will come into effect. The movement from each step will depend on medical advice, widespread testing and the ability to trace and trap outbreaks.

To ensure you're keeping safe, here's a breakdown of the specific rules state by state and when they'll come into effect. To reiterate, all spatial distancing and hygiene practices still apply.

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