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