Coronavirus lockdown: When can you leave your home?

As Australia goes into stage three lockdown and authorities begin to enforce stricter social distancing restrictions, many remain confused over reasons for leaving the home.

NSW Police officers ask a family to move on while on patrol at Rushcutters Bay park in Sydney.

NSW Police officers ask a family to move on while on patrol at Rushcutters Bay park in Sydney. Source: AAP

Australians are being urged to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic but new restrictions have raised questions around when they can leave.

Scenes of NSW police officers urging park-goers to move on have shown their preparedness to enforce social distancing measures to contain the virus. 

The message from authorities is don’t leave home unless absolutely necessary - this means work, school, buying essentials, medical care and exercise.  

New restrictions have advised indoor and outdoor gatherings be limited to two people with the exemption of a person's household or immediate family.

But with states applying the national health directive in different ways, many have been left uncertain.

NSW Police officers ask people to move on at a park in Sydney.
Source: AAP

Can I visit my partner if we don’t live together? 

NSW: Anyone in NSW can visit their partners - NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has confirmed this would come under “care” provisions.

Victoria: Authorities had initially said people could not visit their partner for “social reasons”. But they have relented, saying an exemption would be made for people in relationships.  

Queensland: The state's health minister Stephen Miles has confirmed it is “fine” for couples who don’t live together to visit each other.

ACT: The ACT has said it will enforce rules in line with NSW.

The territory's public health order also states a home can have up to two visitors.

Tasmania: The state says up to two visitors are permitted in a home at any one time - but advises people to be mindful of physical distancing advice. 

Western Australia: Households in WA are also allowed to have one guest at a time. 

Northern Territory: NT authorities are sticking with a 10-person limit on gatherings.

South Australia: SA has said it is “pleased” with the current response to health advice and will hold off on stronger restrictions. 

Can children in a shared custody arrangement move between homes?

Victoria and Tasmania explain shared custody arrangements, whether informal or court-ordered, can continue as normal. 

Meanwhile, other states and territories have exceptions for people to leave their homes under “care and compassionate grounds”.

It's understood these provisions could also apply to having relatives babysit for families. 

Can I take my dog for a walk? 

Walking the dog would fall under the exemption for people to still exercise. 

People are allowed to participate in exercise in groups of no more than two people.

However indoor and outdoor gyms are now off limits. 

NSW Police officers monitor people in parks.
Source: AAP

Can I go to the park?

The public is still allowed to visit parks to exercise - but the use of playgrounds is prohibited. 

Victoria's state government explains visits to the park should be kept short.

But vision of NSW police asking people sitting in parks to leave has shown this state taking a stronger stance than others against loiterers. 

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says if in doubt, stay at home. 

"A good rule of thumb is that if you are questioning whether you should be doing something, it is best to give it a miss," he said.

"The safest place is at home in isolation." 

Can I go out to pick up takeaway food?

The message from state and territories is that you are allowed to pick up takeaway food but you should minimise the time you spend there, observe social distancing and return home directly.

Can I still move house? 

Across NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT, WA, SA and NT there are exemptions for moving house.

Queensland does not reference moving house in its legislation but says exemptions can be made for “compassionate” or "exceptional circumstances”.

What's a 'reasonable excuse' excuse for leaving your home

In NSW, authorities have offered 16 "reasonable excuses" for people to leave their home. 

This includes obtaining food or goods and services (including for pets), taking children to childcare, fulfilling carer responsibilities, attending a wedding or funeral, moving house, providing emergency assistance and donating blood.

It also includes undertaking legal obligations, accessing public services such as Centrelink or domestic violence support, and leaving home to avoid injury or illness and for emergencies or compassionate reasons. It also allows children who do not live in the same household to visit their parents or siblings.

Finally, it allows for a minister of a religious order to go to the person's place of worship or provide pastoral care.

More information on directions across across state jurisdictions can be found here: VictoriaNew South WalesQueensland, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

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Published 2 April 2020 at 3:36pm
By Tom Stayner.