Katina Curtis, AAP Senior Political Writer
(Australian Associated Press)

Social Distancing – What is it?

Firstly, it means keeping a physical distance between yourself and others, and secondly, it applies to the tough restrictions in place to stop people gathering in groups.

How close can I get to others?

The medical advice is you should keep 1.5 metres away from other people. No more handshakes, hugging or air kisses. But chief medical officer Brendan Murphy has conceded families or people who live in the same house can hardly avoid being in such close proximity.

What about touching things?

Research shows the virus can last a long time – up to three days in some cases – on surfaces after sick people have touched them. The main thing you should be doing is washing your hands frequently with soap or an alcohol-based sanitiser, and pay for things using tap-and-go contactless methods.

Why should I stay at home?

To avoid other people as much as possible and thus avoid spreading or contracting the virus. Governments have put in place increasingly tighter restrictions on social gatherings. The current state of play is you should not leave your house unless you need to shop for essentials (such as food or medicine), exercise in a public space, go to a medical appointment, or head to work or school if you can’t work or learn from home. You are also allowed to go out if you are caring or supporting someone living elsewhere – such as buying groceries for an elderly relative or neighbour. People aged over 70, those over 65 with pre-existing conditions, and indigenous people over 50 with pre-existing conditions should stay home wherever possible for their own protection.

Can I meet people outside?

Gatherings are restricted to two people, indoors and outdoors. That means you can catch up with one friend to walk or run through a park – but you should still keep 1.5m between you.

Is this the law now?

It depends on where you live. Victoria, NSW, Queensland, Tasmania have issued legal directions requiring people to stay home unless they have to leave for one of the acceptable reasons. But SA, WA, the NT and the ACT have left the guidance as “strong advice” to stay at home. Most states have a regime of policing and fines for breaching restrictions.

What exceptions are there?

Some exceptions are allowed on compassionate grounds, such as funerals – although only 10 mourners are allowed – and visiting terminally-ill relatives. There are also exemptions for split families who have shared custody arrangements, so children can continue to visit or stay with both parents.

What if I don't live with my boyfriend or girlfriend?

Again, the rules are mixed depending on where you live. Victoria’s police minister says you cannot visit a partner’s house for social reasons. But in NSW, the police commissioner said that was allowed. Tasmania’s government advises that up to two visitors are allowed to a household at any one time, but cautions people should still be wary of limiting unnecessary travel between homes. And the federal health department says extended family members or partners should minimise visits.