How the law makes sure you keep your distance in Canberra

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Photo: Gerd Altmann

SOCIAL-distancing requirements have become a source of confusion in Australia, especially with states and territories announcing different measures across the nation. 

In NSW, a man has been fined for eating a kebab on a bench and a couple was fined for sitting in their car, raising the question, will that happen in Canberra, too?

To clear up the confusion, “CityNews” got in contact with ACT Health and asked them a bunch of frequently raised questions based on the Canberra region. Here’s what they said… 

Q: Can Canberrans see their family if they live in a different household in Canberra? 

A: Yes, so long as there aren’t already two people at the residence who don’t usually reside there and the one person per four square metres rule is met.

Q: Can a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner visit each other if they live in different households? 

A: Yes. So long as there aren’t already two people at the residence who don’t usually reside there, and the one person per four square metres rule is met.

Q: If two people from a household are together, can they, within social distancing requirements, meet with another person? 

 A: Yes, you can have up to two people at your residence who do not normally reside there, so long as you meet the one person per four square metres rule.

Q: Can Canberrans go outside to exercise more than once in a day? 

A: Yes, people are allowed to go outside for the purpose of exercise, however, they must maintain appropriate physical distancing and be in a group of no more than two people, unless they are from your household.

Q: How far can we drive for exercise?

A: People are allowed to travel for essential reasons, including to exercise. People should, however, minimise the amount of travel they undertake if it involves coming into contact with other people (public transport, for instance).

Q: Can Canberrans go for a drive, just for the sake of it?

A: There is no rule against going for a drive within the ACT, however, regard should be given to restrictions on non-essential trips within NSW. Rules on public gatherings must be adhered to at any destination. 

Q: Can people get a takeaway coffee with a friend and go for a walk?

 A: Yes. Cafes and restaurants can still sell takeaway products. While walking you must ensure you are not in a group larger than two people, unless they are from your household group.

Q: Can one or two people go and sit outside, say by the lake, if they’re abiding to social distancing measures? 

A: The safest place to be is at home. Unless they are at the lake to exercise, people should restrict travel outside their home to essential reasons only. Limiting the spread of the virus is the best way to flatten the curve. The easiest way that people can help stop the spread is by staying home as much as possible, and practising good hygiene. 

Q: How will police be enforcing social-distancing measures? Will they be implementing things such as roadside stops, like seen in other parts of Australia, to see where people are going? 

A: New directions issued by the chief health officer under the “Public Health Act” has allowed police and other regulatory bodies to enforce regulatory action. ACT Policing will encourage compliance before considering the enforcement of ACT COVID-19 directions. Canberrans are reminded that failure to comply with the directions of the chief health officer rules doesn’t just risk enforcement, it risks people’s lives. Police will continue to be mobile and proactive in patrolling roads and the community each day. They will remain visible and focused on community safety in these times. 

Q: If you live in a household with other people and you test positive for the coronavirus, do you need to stay away from them?

A: Yes. Only essential household members who are caring for you should stay in the home. Other people living in the home should consider staying elsewhere if possible. Elderly people and those with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions should stay away. If you are sharing the home with others, you should stay in a different room from them, or be separated as much as possible. You should use a separate bathroom, if available. You should avoid shared or communal areas and wear a surgical mask when moving through these areas. If another person in the household has to enter your room, or you are in the same room as another person, you should wear a surgical mask. If you cannot wear a surgical mask, the people who live with you should not be in the same room as you, and should wear a mask if they have to enter your room. The people you live with and other close contacts will also need to be isolated at home. Their isolation period will be for 14 days after their last contact with you while you were infectious. They will be contacted by the ACT Health Communicable Disease Control (CDC) team and notified of their need to self-isolate. CDC will contact your close contacts by SMS every day to check on them. If they develop symptoms, CDC will advise on how they can get tested for COVID-19.

Q: If you become unwell but do not meet the testing requirements, and have not come in contact with any confirmed coronavirus cases, what should you do?

A: If you are concerned you may be unwell and have flu-like symptoms it’s important you limit exposure to other people. Stay at home from work or school and avoid social interactions. Help prevent the spread of germs by paying attention to, and practising, good hand, respiratory and general hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing with a tissue, or cough into your elbow. Dispose of tissues into a bin and then wash your hands. Wash your hands regularly throughout the day, especially after using the toilet and before eating. If you’re worried you may have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP in the first instance, who can advise on appropriate infection control measures.

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Danielle Nohra
Danielle Nohra is a "CityNews" staff journalist.


  1. What would be rules in this situation:
    Two children with separated parents.
    50/50 care.
    Kids usually spend half time at mums, half time at dads.
    Both parents either pick up or drop off kids to other parent, whatever is most convenient.
    Is that permitted to continue?

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