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Can I visit my boyfriend or my parents? Go fishing or bushwalking? Coronavirus rules in the Northern Territory and Tasmania

Editor’s note: The information provided below was relevant at time of publication and may now be outdated as regulations change. Things are changing quickly so best to keep an eye on the latest information from the NT government, the Tasmanian government and the federal government.

This article adds to the information we’ve published for New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, on South Australia and the ACT and Western Australia. We will bring you more information as we collect it.

According to Google Trends, some of the top coronavirus searches nationally in the past few days include “can I visit my parents coronavirus Australia?”, “can I go fishing during coronavirus?” and “can I go for a drive during coronavirus Australia?”

“Can I visit my boyfriend during coronavirus Australia?” was also a common one.

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We asked legal experts Ros Vickers at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory and Brendan Gogarty at the University of Tasmania to help shed some light on what the new rules might mean for residents of their state and territory.

Can I visit my parents?

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Ros Vickers, NT: The short answer is yes, provided you comply with the social distancing being less than 10 people inside or outside with 4m² available to each. The Chief Minister has announced the NT will not be enforcing the two-person gathering rules.

The answer differs if your parents are in an aged care facility. If you classify as, “a person providing care and support to a resident of the facility” you can visit for up to two hours per day.

But you must meet the other criteria of health and non-exposure to COVID-19.

Brendan Gogarty, Tas: It depends.

If they live in their own home, the policy answer is no; there is a stay at home declaration. However, this has been written on the fly and there are some significant gaps in it that suggest maybe you can.

The exceptions are to provide social support, which is not defined. The other exception is provision of care to attend to another person’s compassionate needs – well, care is a really broad word; it could mean a lot of different things.

If you are going to your parents house to provide “social support” and “care” you can probably do it.

If they live in a care facility, the owner of the facility is under strict public health rules so it depends on the facility. That includes, at the least, restricting the number of visitors in a room, the distance between them, and other measures intended to stop the transmission of COVID-19. These override a family member’s right to visit the relative.

The general policy is don’t do it.

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Can I go bushwalking/fishing?

Ros Vickers, NT: Most national parks are now closed, although you can still go bushwalking on local trails provided you practise social distancing.

Campgrounds, multi-day walks, swimming spots and high-use day areas are closed.

The NT chief minister Michael Gunner said you can go fishing with your family or your housemates and maintain social distancing with other people.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Fishing in remote communities is not allowed as you are not able to get a permit to enter Remote communities in the NT. The following places are open for fishing:

  • Darwin Harbour
  • Dundee
  • Leeders Creek
  • Bynoe Harbour
  • Channel Point
  • Adelaide River (mouth)
  • Cox Peninsula
  • Shoal Bay

Brendan Gogarty, Tas: No and no. But also maybe yes.

All national parks and state reserves are closed by law in Tasmania. That means no camping, walking, or any recreational activity – some research and volunteering exceptions exist, but these are limited – and all gates and access points are shut. Some smaller parks do fall under local council authority and those may be on a case-by-case basis.

Fishing is not an exception to the stay at home declaration, so technically this is not permitted (unless you count it as “exercise”).

However, there is conflicting policy (not law) advice from the department that regulates recreational fishing in Tasmania, which says you can do it so long as you respect social distancing rules. Of course, departmental websites aren’t law, but it could be seen as a “reasonable excuse” under the present stay at home declaration.

For the minute, it is better not to do it, although you probably could make an excuse to do it.

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Can I go for a drive?

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Ros Vickers, NT: Essential travel is allowed, being travel to work, education, grocery shops or medical help.

At present there are no police checks regarding movement, and no indication that this will be monitored by police. You can ride a bike within certain restrictions.

Border restrictions apply at the NT borders.

Brendan Gogarty, Tas: You can drive to and from whatever essential service you need to get to like work, going to the vet or to get food. But no recreational driving.

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Can I visit my girlfriend/boyfriend?

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Ros Vickers, NT: Yes, you can visit their private residence or exercise with them. Essential travel does not clearly include visiting partners, however visiting others and allowing guests in your house is allowed while practising physical distancing. It is also recommended that to reduce the spread of germs in households, handshaking and kissing be avoided.

Brendan Gogarty, Tas: That’s the same as your parents. The policy is you shouldn’t do it. You should both stay in your homes for the period of the crisis. But you have the same exceptions - provision of social support and care and attending to a person’s compassionate needs.

Again, I don’t think the police would necessarily stop you but its contrary to the policy behind the law - reducing people’s movement outside of their “primary” residence to only those journeys which are absolutely essential to sustaining life and health.

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Can I go for a walk around my neighbourhood or sit on a park bench?

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Ros Vickers, NT: Yes, as long as you maintain social distancing of 1.5m with those who are not part of your household.

You can also go for a bike ride alone or with one other person, or with the people that you live with. (See Michael Gunner, chief minister of NT’s Facebook page.)

Brendan Gogarty, Tas: Yes, you can go for a walk if it is exercise. Sitting on a park bench is not exercise so I’d avoid doing it.

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