COVID-19: Victoria’s new coronavirus rules, explained

Living Well | RACV | Posted on 24 March 2020

Victoria is in partial shutdown. This is what you need to know about the new COVID-19 rules and how to keep you and your loved ones safe.

As coronavirus cases continue to climb and the Australian government implements strict new social distancing rules, all of us have a part to play in helping stem the spread of the virus and saving lives. Here’s how you can help keep yourself, your loved ones and the community safe.

Sign at beach explaining new coronavirus 1.5m social distancing rule

Victoria’s new coronavirus rules: explained

What does the shutdown mean for people? 

In an effort to slow the spread of the disease and enforce social distancing, the federal government has ordered the closure of all pubs, clubs, casinos, cinemas, entertainment venues, nightclubs and places of worship until further notice. In a second round of closures, beauty salons, massage parlours, nail bars and shopping-centre food courts have also been ordered to shut. Restaurants and cafes cannot seat customers but can continue serving takeaway or home-delivered food, as can food-court retailers.

The federal government has also introduced a ban on all international travel and will restrict weddings to no more than five people (including the bride, groom and celebrant or priest) and funerals to no more than 10 people. House inspections and public auctions have also been banned. 

What’s open

Supermarkets, butchers, greengrocers, liquor stores, petrol stations, newsagents, banks, convenience stores and pharmacies, and medical clinics and allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, will remain open. Hairdressers can still operate, but must enforce social distancing rules and restrict time customers spend in the salon to a maximum of 30 minutes. Shopping centres and work sites can continue to operate but must follow strict health rules and minimise person-to-person contact. 

Freight, logistics and home delivery are also considered essential and will remain open. Child care centres and kindergartens are still open.

What’s happening with school holidays?

In Victoria, the state government has brought forward school holidays to begin four days early, on Tuesday 24 March. At this stage, school is set to return on 14 April, but this is subject to change. Childcare centres and kindergartens remain open for now, but that might change according to health advice

What are the rules on social distancing?

To reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the infection, maintain at least 1.5 metres between you and other people when out and about. If in an enclosed space, such as an office, ensure you have a four square metre perimeter around you. Do not shake hands, hug or touch other people beyond your immediate household. People should not congregate for non-essential gatherings such as parties, barbecues or casual sports or games, even in private homes and parks.

What happens if I don’t abide by the new lockdown rules?

Victoria Police has created a special taskforce of 500 police to enforce the new rules on closures and social distancing. Individuals who flout the rules face fines of $20,000 while venues that allow banned non-essential mass gatherings face fines of $100,000. 

Do I have to stay indoors?  

Provided you are well and have not been ordered into self-isolation after arriving from overseas, you can still go out, but practise the 1.5-metre social distancing rule.  

You are allowed to go to work if necessary, go to the supermarket and food shops and take the dog for a walk to the park. But the government has advised everyone to avoid unnecessary trips and congregating with others beyond your immediate household.  

This is the best way to slow the spread of the disease, which will reduce the chances of our health system being overwhelmed as has been the case in Italy, where the number of COVID-19-related deaths has surpassed China.  

Where am I allowed to go?  

You are allowed to go to work, run essential errands, do your grocery shopping and attend medical appointments. You are allowed to walk around the block and take the dog to the park. You can even get a takeaway meal or coffee, but take your credit or debit card as many venues are now refusing to handle cash.  

What am I not allowed to do?  

You should not invite family and friends over for a barbecue or drop in to a neighbour’s for coffee. If you want to make sure an elderly neighbour or relative is okay, it’s best call them rather than drop in. You should not organise play dates for your kids or send them to the local shopping mall to keep them amused in the holidays.  

Can I catch up with family/friends in a private home? 

The government has advised avoiding socialising with people beyond your immediate household.  

Can my children have friends over in the school holidays? 

The government has advised against this. 

Should I allow my children to spend time with their grandparents?  

Coronavirus has a much higher complication and fatality rate among the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, and children may not show noticeable symptoms. Therefore, consider minimising close contact with elderly or unwell relatives and if you do visit, exercise extra care with hand hygiene, avoid any physical contact and maintain as much physical distance as possible.  

Can I visit an elderly relative in a nursing home? 

The Australian Health Department says unless you “absolutely” need to go, don’t. “It’s best to keep in touch via phone and video calls, send postcards, photos or artwork or film short videos to share,” it advises. 

Can I catch public transport?

Public transport is still operating but where possible, try to travel at off-peak periods to minimise the number of people travelling at any one time. Make sure you practise excellent hygiene by washing hands or using a hand sanitiser before and after travel, avoiding touching surfaces where possible, using a tissue to sneeze and cough and disposing of it immediately after alighting, and washing hands or sanitising immediately afterwards. Try to maximise distance between you and other passengers.  

Cafe closed for eat in, sign says takeaway only
Close up of thermometer at 37 degrees

Premier Daniel Andrews this week announced Victoria's new partial lockdown rules to help stem the spread of coronavirus.

COVID-19: What you need to know

How can I play a part in helping slow the spread of coronavirus? 

Everyone in our community has a role to play in helping to save lives by slowing the spread of the disease. As well as practising excellent hygiene through diligent hand-washing and using a tissue to sneeze or cough, people should avoid unnecessary outings and socialising. This means working from home where possible, catching up with friends and relatives over the phone or Skype rather than in person and, when you do need to be out and about, ensuring you keep a safe 1.5 metres away from other people. 

How can I minimise my chances of infection?

Minimising your chances of contracting coronavirus is fairly straightforward: 

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water and dry well. 
  • If you need to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue and dispose of the tissue immediately afterwards, then wash and dry your hands. 
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow (not into your hands). 
  • Avoid unnecessary travel, visits and errands. 
  • Avoid socialising with people beyond your immediate household. 
  • When you are around other people, be it at work, at the supermarket or on public transport, ensure you allow at least 1.5 metres between you and the next person.  

What’s the best way to wash my hands? 

Washing your hands is key to reducing the spread of coronavirus. The proper method is as follows:  

  • Wet hands and apply enough soap to cover all surfaces.   
  • Rub hands palm to palm, the right palm over top of left hand and vice-versa. Focus also on the fingers and fingernails by washing palm to palm with interlacing fingers and then scrubbing fingers and thumbs in the opposing palm and repeat. Be sure to apply soap and clean underneath rings or other jewellery. This should take about 20 to 30 seconds. Try singing Happy Birthday to yourself twice – or reciting the alphabet. 
  • Rinse thoroughly under warm water.  
  • Dry hands with disposable paper towel where available, or alternatively under an air dryer. Avoid cloth towels which could harbour coronavirus microbes.   

Is hand sanitiser as effective as soap and water?  

Washing hands with soap and water is more effective than hand sanitiser; however, if handwashing facilities are not available, hand sanitisers are a great alternative for visibly non-soiled hands. Hand sanitisers should contain at least 60 per cent alcohol to be effective in disabling the pathogen. Authorities strongly recommend against making your own sanitiser. Don’t waste your time using alcoholic drinks, like 40 per cent proof vodka, because it contains too little alcohol to be effective. 

What do I do if I run out of soap?

The NSW health department says if you’ve run out of soap, shampoo and dishwashing detergent are effective substitutes. 

What about cleaning my house?

New research by the University of California suggests the virus can live on metal and plastic surfaces for up to three days, on cardboard for 24 hours and up to three hours in the air. You can help prevent the spread of infection by cleaning frequently used surfaces such as doorknobs, taps, fridge doors and light switches. 

Are household disinfectants effective in killing the virus?

It is believed that common household disinfectants are effective in killing the virus. But it is important to avoid recontaminating surfaces as you clean by ensuring you use a clean cloth or disposable towel, and clean bigger areas in an S motion so you’re not going over the same area. 

Wash your hands immediately after cleaning and if using a non-disposable cloth, make sure you wash and dry it thoroughly after each use. Washing the cloth on the warmest possible setting of your washing machine, with regular detergent, should kill the virus.

What should I do if I feel unwell? 

You should stay home and avoid contact with anyone. If you think you may have COVID-19, call your doctor – don’t just turn up to the surgery. Your doctor will be able to advise on the best course of action, whether it be presenting to a specialised clinic for testing or remaining home in self-isolation. 

Should I wear a face mask?  

Face masks are not recommended for the general population. WHO advises that if you are healthy you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected coronavirus infection or are coughing or sneezing. It says masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. 

Those with symptoms who might be infected with COVID-19 are required to stay in isolation at home and should wear a surgical face mask when in the same room as another person or when seeking medical advice, to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection. 

How to dispose of a mask properly

If you wear a mask, use and dispose of it properly. 

  • Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. 
  • Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask. 
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. 
  • Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks. 

Where can I keep up to date on the latest coronavirus information?

For more advice and details on the coronavirus hotline, go to the Department of Health and Human Services’ coronavirus information page, or visit the World Health Organisation and sign up for their daily WhatsApp updates. The messaging service will provide the latest news and information on coronavirus, including details on symptoms and how people can protect themselves and others.  

The WHO Health Alert can be accessed on mobile through a link that opens a conversation on WhatsApp. Users can simply type “hi” to activate the conversation, prompting a menu of options that can help answer their questions about COVID-19.

To keep up to date with the latest service information and how RACV is responding to the coronavirus crisis, visit

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