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What’s changing with social distancing restrictions?

After weeks of strict stay at home and social distancing rules, some states have started to ease their restrictions.

This comes as the Federal government announced a national three-step plan to relax coronavirus restrictions on 8 May 2020. However, individual states and territories will decide exactly when they put these changes in place.

Step 1 – This step focuses on supporting Australians to go back to work and enjoy social activities. This includes allowing gatherings of up to 10 people and up to five visitors in your home. Some local and regional travel will also be allowed.

Step 2 – This step will help to further open the economy by allowing gatherings of up to 20 people. More businesses will be allowed to reopen, including gyms, beauty services and entertainment venues like galleries and cinemas.

Step 3 – This step will allow gatherings of up to 100 people. This step will be the new ‘normal’ while coronavirus is still a threat.

You need to make sure you’re following the rules for the state you live in. Below are links and information for the current rules in each state and territory.


The ACT Government said it has spent the last six weeks testing patients and contact tracing. They believe they can now start easing certain restrictions that will help support families and the economy.

These restrictions will be lifted gradually to avoid any unnecessary risks. The first restriction that has been eased is the amount of people allowed in a gathering. From midnight on Friday 8 May, people in the ACT are allowed a gathering of up to 10 people, indoors or outdoors.

ACT Government COVID-19 website.

New South Wales

The NSW Government was one of the first in Australia to announce it was going to start easing its social restrictions before the government announcement on Friday 8 May. The first restriction that has been eased is the amount of people allowed in a gathering. From Friday 15 May, people in NSW will be allowed a gathering of up to 10 people outdoors and five people indoors. Cafes and restaurants will also be able to have up to 10 people dining in. And outdoor gyms, playgrounds and pools will open with restrictions.

NSW Health website.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory has already made the biggest changes on relaxing coronavirus restrictions.

Their 10-person limit for outdoor activities has ended and lots of outdoor activities are open and available again, including many parks and recreation areas and playgrounds.

North Territory Government Coronavirus website.


Queenslanders are now able to leave their homes for recreation. From Sunday 10 May, they will also be able to have up to five members from one household visit another home. And they will be able to travel more than 50 kilometres to visit another person’s home.

Queensland Government website.

South Australia

From 11 May, the South Australian Government will ease some restrictions. For example, gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed, as long as they remain 1.5 metres apart. Cafes and restaurants will also be able to have up to 10 people dining outside. And outdoor sports training can start, as long as there are no more than 10 people taking part.

Government of South Australia COVID19 website.


The Tasmanian Government will start easing some restrictions from 11 May. Funerals can now have 20 people attending, aged care facilities can have one visit per week with two visitors, and national parks and reserves will open. From 18 May, indoor and outdoor gatherings will increase to 10 people, except visitors to households – this is limited to five people. Cafes and restaurants will also be able to have up to 10 people dining at a time. The government has planned the date for when each restriction will be eased in the future.

Tasmanian Government Coronavirus website.


For Victorians, stage-three restrictions have been eased slightly. This comes after more than 150,000 people have been tested for the virus. From Tuesday 12 May, Victorians will be allowed to have five visitors in their home and have outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people. However, Victorians are still being told that if they can stay at home, they must stay at home.

Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website.

Western Australia

Western Australia’s restrictions have already been relaxed. The state will also be the first in Australia to enter Stage 2 of restrictions. At the moment, the two-person limit has been changed to a 10-person limit for indoor and outdoor gatherings. From 18May, libraries, gyms and indoor weddings can have up to 20 people. Cafes and restaurants will also be allowed to seat up to 20 people.

Western Australian Department of Health website.

Federal restrictions

The federal physical distancing restrictions include:

  • staying at home as much as possible and only going out if it’s for essential things like:
    • food shopping
    • exercising
    • medical appointments
    • caring for another person outside of your home
    • going to work, if you can’t work from home
  • keeping 1.5 metres away from other people
  • self-isolating in your home or hotel room for 14 days if you have:
    • tested positive for coronavirus
    • been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus
    • arrived from overseas
  • avoid physical greetings such as handshaking, hugs and kisses
  • use tap and go instead of cash
  • travel at quiet times and avoid crowds
  • limit visits to at-risk groups like older people and people with disability who have underlying health conditions.

You can find up-to-date information on the coronavirus restrictions set out by the Federal Government on the Australian Department of Health website.

11 May 2020