Life in public as restrictions ease
The pubs reopened to great rejoicing and some free beer as coronavirus restrictions eased across Australia, although unfortunately it was too late for millions of litres of suds that had to be tipped down the drain. It was strange to be out, but it felt good once you got used to it. Rules vary by state and territory, but over the past several weeks, Aussies have been able to dine out, go to holiday homes, and gather in small groups once more. Lockdown isn’t lockdown anymore in most places, but that doesn’t mean “normal” is back. Here’s where things stand.
Pubs & Restaurants
They’re open. In South Australia, there can even be as many as 80 people in them at a time. In regional Queensland, locals (who show proof of residence) can meet up with 49 of their closest friends to celebrate the end of lockdown or just the fact that the weekend has arrived. Pokies are back, and doing a brisk business. Not everyone is happy about that last bit, of course, with gambling reform activist Tony Mohr telling the Sydney Morning Herald that turning off the pokies during lockdown saved Australians $2 billion. With limited numbers of patrons, cafes and restaurants have taken to having multiple seating times during an evening to turn over tables and limit exposure. Night clubs in the Northern Territory are open, with no 2-hour time restriction for patrons. Meanwhile, in Tasmania alcohol can’t be served unless the drinker also orders a meal. Different places have very different rules, and it can be a bit confusing, but concert and sport venues should be allowed to open in July as long as each person has 4 square metres of space.
New Zealand had rid itself of COVID-19 before a flare-up, so that Trans-Tasman travel bubble hasn’t opened just yet. It won’t for at least a couple more months, but it might include countries such as Fiji and Tonga that have either eradicated or altogether avoided the novel coronavirus on their shores. In the meantime, Australians are free to travel throughout their own states and territories, but several have restrictions on outsiders. Tasmania, SA, and NT require visitors to quarantine for 14 days. Queensland and WA won’t even let people in without a special exemption. Meantime, the ACT has no restrictions on its borders for other Australians. Victoria and NSW closed their borders after Melbourne and surrounding suburbs went back into lockdown amid a large flare-up. NT followed suit, closing its borders to Victorians, and Melbourne and the surrounding suburbs went back into lockdown through mid-August. Victoria is essentially cut off from the rest of the country. Whilst it’s far from the same as before, Victoria’s ski resorts are open for the winter season at half-capacity, but that will be a struggle to fill with many residents locked down and outsiders cut off. Tourism remains a vital economic sector for Australia and the other nations of Oceania, and fully reopening will be an exercise in finding the balance between medical and economic risks. For at least as long as it’s just Aussies venturing around the country, the great Australian road trip is making a comeback.
If you’ve spent some of your super money on perhaps the most expensive pizza of your life, perhaps you feel the need to get to the gym. You now can in each state and territory, though there are of course restrictions. Training classes are limited to groups of 10 or 20 depending on the jurisdiction, and the 4 square metre rule applies throughout. Gyms are asking clients to limit their workouts to an hour and to place a towel between themselves and any equipment. Patrons are also expected to wipe equipment down after use, though gym employees will be santising as well just to be safe. You’ll also be asked to stay 1.5 metres from others at all times and have restrictions on how many classes you can sign up for per week. It’s all a refreshing bit of freedom, but it comes with the need to remind yourself that the pandemic is not over and there are still rules about getting too close. Should you forget, there are still hefty fines in place to remind you.