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Australia’s state by state Covid restrictions and coronavirus lockdown rules explained

Guardian staff
·20-min read
<span>Photograph: Chris Putnam/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Chris Putnam/Rex/Shutterstock

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 23 November, and including those in South Australia.

This article should not be treated as legal advice. It will be updated as restrictions are announced, implemented or repealed.


Here are the official state and territory restriction guides for New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT.

How many people can I have over at my house?

New South Wales: on Sunday 19 July, the government issued advice asking people not to host, or go to, a gathering of more than 10 people at home. But the law in NSW now allows 20 people from different households to visit. There is no limit to the number of guests you can have over each day, as long as there are no more than 20 at a time. Guests can stay overnight. If there are more than 20 visitors at a home, every person can be held individually responsible for a breach of the public health order.

Victoria: people are allowed to have up to 15 visitors in their homes each day. The government advised people to keep a record of visitors where possible.

Queensland: there are no longer any restricted local government areas meaning one set of rules apply across the state. You are allowed up to 30 guests inside your home but this includes the members of your household.

Tasmania: you can have up to 20 visitors.

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 10 people, regardless of age. All gatherings must observe the density requirements of one person per four square metres.

Northern Territory: there is no limit on how many people can gather indoors or outdoors, but you must keep 1.5 metres between you and anyone with whom you don’t live. Gatherings of more than 100 will 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 of up to 20 are allowed. On 1 July community sport for children and adults returned, including contact sports. The Public Health Act says organisers must ensure venues do not exceed the 4 sq metre-a-person rule, up to a limit of 500 participants (which includes players, officials and spectators).

Victoria: up to 50 people from any number of households can gather.

Queensland: public gatherings are restricted to a maximum of 50; this does not apply to businesses operating with a Covid-safe plan.

Tasmania: up to 1,000 are allowed in an undivided outdoor space as long as there is at least 2 sq metres of space a 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 a 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 100 can gather outdoors or in public indoor areas as long as there is at least 4 sq metres of space for each person.

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. Residents should have only one daily visit with a maximum of two visitors (immediate family or close friends), no large group visits or gatherings, and all visits should be short and take place in the resident’s room, outdoors or a specified area (instead of a communal area).

Victoria: residents can have only one visitor a day for a maximum of two hours. That visitor must be a parent, guardian, carer, partner or support person. All visitors must sign in and out of the facility.

Queensland: residents can have up to two visitors at any time. There is no limit on the number of visits allowed in a day or the length of the visit.

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: up to two people can visit at the same time for care and support. There is no limit on the number of visits in a day or the length of each visit. Workers must wear a mask where physical distancing isn’t possible, and 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, but group bookings are limited to 30, with venues observing the 4 sq metre a 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 smaller than 200 sq m are restricted to a total of 50 patrons, and bigger venues are capped at 150, with both subject to the density rule of one person every 2 sq metres. Outdoors venues are capped at 300 people, also subject to the density rule. There are no group booking limits.

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 metres-a-person limit is observed. Venues with a floor space less than 200 sq m can have a maximum of 50, not exceeding a limit of one person for every 2 sq m.

Tasmania: up to 250 are allowed in an undivided space as long as there is no more than one person every 2 sq m. 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 m. Venues can serve food and alcohol to non-seated patrons. There is no requirement for businesses to maintain a patron register.

South Australia: restaurants, cafes, pubs, food courts, nightclubs and casinos have caps of 100 people, with density requirements of one person per four square metres total. Standing consumption, indoors and outdoors, is not allowed. Bookings are capped at 10 people maximum, with seated dining only.

Northern Territory: all businesses can reopen as long as they have a Covid plan. The two-hour limit has been lifted, meaning nightclubs can reopen. You can buy alcohol from a bar. Licensed gaming activities, including Tab, have restarted.

ACT: restaurants, cafes and other hospitality venues offering seated dining can host up to 100 patrons in each indoor or outdoor space, as long as there is one person every 4 sq m. This limit excludes staff.

How far can I travel on holiday within my state?

There are no longer any restrictions except for Western Australia, where there are some restrictions on visiting some remote Aboriginal communities and South Australia.

Can I visit another state?

New South Wales: anyone can enter NSW. The Queensland border is closed to people from NSW who have been in a Covid hotspot, including greater Sydney. Borders with South Australia remain open but all arrivals from there are being screened.

Victoria: no permit or approval is required for anyone wanting to enter Victoria, with the exception of South Australians who need a permit. The border with NSW has opened, meaning travel is unrestricted, but there are border restrictions for other states. To enter the ACT, Tasmania or Western Australia you will need a valid permit. Travelling to NT requires a 14-day quarantine if you come from an identified hotspot, which includes Melbourne. Queensland has closed its borders to anyone from Victoria. Travel to South Australia is restricted, with a cross-border travel approval required.

Queensland: anyone can enter unless they have been in a hotspot in the previous 14 days, in which case they will be refused entry. This includes anyone who has visited any part of Victoria and greater Sydney. From Monday 16 November South Australian LGAs were declared a hotspot, meaning anyone travelling from there would turned away at the border.

Tasmania: those who have been inside a declared hotspot in the past 14 days cannot enter unless they have been granted an exemption under the G2G Pass system, and non-essential travellers must undertake and pay for hotel quarantine. Hotspot regions include all Victoria and all South Australia and specific venues where outbreaks have been recorded in other states. All travellers who have not been inside a hotspot, including returning residents, still must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Non-Tasmanian residents must carry out their quarantine in government-provided accommodation.

Western Australia: you cannot enter unless you are granted an exemption on application. There were previously stricter rules for people who had travelled from NSW or Victoria, but from Monday 5 October NSW residents have the same conditions as other states and territories. Victorians have stricter entry conditions, but are able to self-quarantine at a suitable location. There is no date for when the interstate border will reopen. Entry from South Australia is no longer allowed, with some exceptions.

South Australia: anyone travelling to SA must complete a cross-border travel registration, with travel open to everyone except for Victorians, where restrictions still remain. Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, the ACT and the Northern Territory have closed their borders to South Australians, with some exemptions. The NT and Tasmania are imposing a 14-day quarantine on returning travellers from SA. NSW and Victoria have open borders with South Australia, with their respective governments advising travellers to either reconsider their travel or to be wary of the outbreak.

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. Travellers and returning residents from Covid-19 hotspots, (Melbourne and Adelaide) will have to complete 14 days of mandatory quarantine at their own expense, which is $2,500 a person.

ACT: anyone can enter the ACT unless they have travelled to Victoria recently. The state has advised that all non-essential travel between the ACT and South Australia be reconsidered, with arrivals being screened. People who are not ACT residents may not enter from Victoria unless they hold an exemption, and returning residents must enter quarantine until 14 days after leaving Victoria. They also must travel via air to Canberra airport due to NSW travel restrictions. It’s recommended but not mandated that residents of Sydney suburbs experiencing outbreaks do not travel to the ACT.

How many people can attend a wedding or funeral?

New South Wales: from 1 December, up to 300 can attend a wedding, subject to the 4 sq m rule indoors and 2 sq m rule outdoors. Funerals and places of worship are limited to 100 people. 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 m a person. This applies to indoor and outdoor ceremonies. Those attending will have to provide name and contact details.

Victoria: weddings can have up to 150, subject to density requirements. People necessary to the wedding, such as celebrants or waiters, are not included in the cap. Funerals can host 150 mourners indoors or outdoors, plus the people required to conduct the funeral. A wedding or funeral held at a private residence is limited to the number of people in the household, plus two visitors.

Queensland: up to 200 can attend weddings and funerals at a professional venue. Private wedding services in public areas or private homes can have a maximum of 30, including the bride, groom, wedding party and marriage celebrant if there is no Covidsafe plan. Private funerals performed in public areas or private homes can have a maximum of 200. A record of names and contact details of each guest must be kept for 56 days.

Tasmania: 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 m.

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 150, and all attendees must register with SA Health. Funerals are capped at 50. Density limits of one person every 4 sq m at both.

Northern Territory: there is no limit but gatherings of more than 100 will be required to complete a Covid-19 checklist.

ACT: weddings and funerals can have up to 25 guests regardless of venue size, and up to 100 can attend weddings or funerals, as long as there is no more than one person every 4 sq m. 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 300, and the 4 sq m physical distancing rule must be observed, even if men and women are in seperate areas. The state’s chief health officer has urged congregations to reconsider activities that might spread the virus – such as group singing and passing collection baskets around.

Victoria: religious gatherings are limited to 150 worshippers indoors and 300 outdoor, not including a faith leader.

Queensland: one person per 4 sq m. However, if the place of worship is less than 200 sq m it can have one person per 2 sq m, up to a total of 50 at either private or public services.

Tasmania: up to 250 can gather in an undivided indoor space, as long as there are 2 sq m a person.

Western Australia: attendance is limited only by the 2 sq m rule.

South Australia: capped at 100. Attendance is limited only by the 4 sq m rule.

Northern Territory: there is no limit on how many can attend at the same time but social distancing should be observed.

ACT: a maximum of 25 people, excluding staff and those conducting the service, across the whole venue.

Are schools back in session?

Yes, schools across all states have reopened to face-to-face learning.

In NSW there are some restrictions on activities, including requiring physical distancing for choirs, musical ensembles and class activities which involve group chanting. Full details can be found on the NSW government website.

In Victoria, students over 12 must wear a face mask if they are learning or doing onsite supervision unless they attend a primary school.

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, provided businesses meet density limits, and in South Australia service providers wear a mask.

In Victoria, businesses can offer services only when a face mask can be worn by the client and the service provider for the duration of 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 allowed to reopen as long as 4 sq m is allowed for each person and they have a Covid safety plan. For large venues attendance to a ticketed event with allocated seating must not exceed 25% of capacity or 10,000. The total number in a major recreational facility hosting a non-ticketed or non-seated event must not exceed one person per 4 sq m (excluding staff) to a maximum of 500 people. Alcohol can be served only to seated patrons.

Victoria: entertainment and cultural venues such as music venues, museums, indoor and outdoor cinemas, and the casino are open, subject to capacity restrictions. Brothels and strip clubs are shut. Libraries and community venues can hold up to 20 a venue.

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 m 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-m rules allow. 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 4 sq m 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 can open.

ACT: up to 100 people allowed at cinemas and 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. There can be only one person per 4 sq m. Audiences must remain seated at live performances.

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 20 a class. The total in a facility must not exceed one person in 4 sq m, excluding staff. Indoor pools and saunas have also reopened to up to 20. Community sporting competitions and training can go ahead as long as the number in a facility does not exceed one person every 4 sq m, 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: there are no limits on how long you can spend exercising each day or the number of times you are allowed to leave your home for exercise. Outdoor personal training is allowed, with up to two people a trainer, and exercise in a group of up to 50 in a public place is permitted. Outdoor sport recreational facilities, such as tennis courts, golf courses or bowling greens, are open with some restrictions. Indoor exercise is allowed, with limits on the number allowed at once. Classes can resume with up to 20. Outdoor and indoor pools have opened, with restrictions on capacity. Outdoor non-contact sport can resume but limited to minimum number of people required for the game. Outdoor community sport for under 18s can resume under similar rules.

Queensland: yes, gyms, health clubs, yoga studios and community sports clubs can open for up to one person per 2 sq m up to a total of 50 if the indoor venue is 200 sq m or less. Indoor venues larger than 200 sq m can have one person every 4 sq m. 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: yes, up to 250 are allowed in an undivided indoor venue, as long as there are 2 sq m per person. Outdoor gathering limits have increased to 1,000. Full contact training and full competition sport (contact and non-contact) is allowed, as is sharing equipment, change rooms and other facilities.

Western Australia – Gyms, health clubs, and indoor sports centres can reopen for up to one person per two square metres. Gyms can operate unstaffed but must undergo regular cleaning. Contact sport and training can also recommence, and playgrounds, outdoor gym equipment and skate parks can be used.

South Australia: gyms, recreation centres, trampoline and play cafes have all reopened. Outdoor fitness activities, such as boot camps and personal training sessions, are allowed with density restrictions. Community sport and swimming lessons have been cancelled.

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: indoor gyms and fitness centres may reopen to up to 100 in an enclosed space, as long as there is only one person in 4 sq m. A maximum of 25 are allowed inside a 24-hour gym when unstaffed. Full contact training for sport, dance and martial arts, as well as circuit training, is allowed. Communal facilities, such as change rooms, can reopen if a risk assessment has been done and a strict cleaning regime has been put in place.

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 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.