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Social Distancing Is Harder When You're Drunk, Deputy CMO Warns

Drinking alcohol makes it harder to social distance, health authorities warned, as restrictions on pubs and gatherings begin to ease. 

From Friday, bars, clubs, pubs, restaurants and cafes will be able to open for dining in NSW, but only 10 patrons will be allowed inside each venue at once.

Treasurer Dominic Perrotett confirmed the 10-person rule was extended to pubs and clubs on Wednesday night, meaning the venues can serve a meal with alcohol, as long as they adhere to social distancing rules.

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Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth was asked if health officials had discussed the potential impacts of alcohol on a person's ability to social distance during his daily briefing on Thursday.

"On your specific point of intoxication and whether that makes physical distancing more difficult, the logical answer is yes it does, and so that needs to be taken into consideration by any jurisdiction [and] by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC)," Coatsworth said.

"And that’s why nightclubs and pubs, by and large, are found towards the end of the three-step process and not at the start.

"But we are satisfied that a 10 person limit is satisfactory," he added.

Experts say social distancing is harder when you've had a few to drink. Image: Getty
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth. Image: AAP

Coatsworth said the National Cabinet's three-step plan to restart the economy offers states and territories the flexibility to lift COVID-19 restrictions "in a more rapid way" depending on their individual circumstances.

Similar restrictions apply in some other states, with Northern Territorians also allowed to grab a beer and a meal from the pub from Friday.

Queenslanders can dine-in at restaurants, cafes, pubs, registered and licensed clubs and hotels from Saturday.

Victoria has no date set for the reopening of pubs, clubs, cafes or restaurants to in-house patrons.

Stage one restrictions allowing cafes and restaurants to open to 10 diners came into effect in South Australia on Monday, but patrons aren't yet allowed back to the pub in the state.

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Reiterating the positions of some premiers, Coatsworth said the 10-person limit is a "significant limit" on pubs or clubs.

"There are a few pubs or clubs that only ever have 10 people in them, but the majority are more full than that," he said.

With the wider easing of restrictions on social gatherings from this weekend, Coatsworth urged Australians to continue heeding the health advice.

"The key is if you are invited to a friend's place this weekend to catch up -- and I can tell you, everyone in Australia wants to increase their social contact at the moment -- the message has to remain the same," he said.

If you are feeling at all unwell with a cough or a cold, ring up and apologise, defer it to next weekend, it's not worth it. And get yourself a COVID-19 test.

The deputy CMO advised the community to feel comfortable asking friends if any of their family members are unwell before making a visit.

"When you go to your mate's place -- if it is your best mate and you haven't seen them for weeks -- don't give them a hug," he said.

"We have to change those habits for the time of COVID-19 in 2020."

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