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The Only State-Sanctioned Reasons You Can Now Leave The House

Visiting your partner or parents is banned under strict rules in some Australian states, but you are allowed to leave your home to donate blood or move house.

From midnight on Monday, harsh new restrictions on movement and gathering came into force around Australia. The general broad advice is that people should stay home in all circumstances, except for situations related to essential shopping, medical visits, going to work or school, or exercising.

"The guidance, the strong advice is don't gather together in groups. That's the simple way of putting it. Just don't do it. It's not helpful. It actually creates the risk," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday.

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Police Confirm It’s Okay To Visit Your Partner During 'Lockdown'

As confusion builds about what is still legal under new coronavirus laws, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has finally confirmed people can visit their partners, because it classifies as 'care'.

Each state has slightly different wording on its individual regulations, but in Victoria at least, the rules do not even allow people to visit family, friends or romantic partners who live in a different house.

"Do not have guests over. That includes friends and family," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Monday.

New South Wales

In NSW, a person "must not, without reasonable excuse, leave the person’s place of residence."

There are 16 'reasonable excuses' listed in the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020, under the Public Health Act.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Image: AAP

State attorney-general Mark Speakman said the list is "not exhaustive" as it was "impossible to anticipate and war-game every scenario" -- saying there were compassionate excuses allowed such as people being allowed to take pets to a vet, even though that's not specifically on the list.

The list allows for people to leave home for reasons including:

  • obtaining food, medical care or supplies;
  • work or school;
  • picking up or dropping children off at childcare;
  • donating blood;
  • moving house;
  • giving care or help to a vulnerable person;
  • undertaking legal obligations;
  • accessing public services like Centrelink, mental health or domestic violence services

(The full list is on page 13 here)

The NSW Premier's office told 10 daily on Tuesday people would not be allowed to leave home to visit the home of a family member, friend or partner that they didn't live with. They added that enforcement of this rule lies with NSW Police.

On Wednesday, however, NSW Police Commissioner Mike Fuller said people would be permitted to visit their partner because of 'caring' reasons.

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NSW Can Now Fine Residents Up To $11,000 Or Send Them To Jail For Leaving The House

In the latest hardening of the state's laws, the NSW government has quietly rolled out $11,000 fines and six-month jail terms for those flouting coronavirus measures.

"Mental health is under care. Absolutely, under care. I think we have to look after each other, but don't take the whole family with you. Don't take your grandparents."

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller. Image: AAP

Deputy premier John Barilaro said "now is not the time to travel between towns... even to visit family and friends", asking citizens to postpone trips to regional areas.

Fuller pleaded for the same, saying people should not try to escape to holiday homes, for fear of possibly overwhelming hospital systems in smaller towns.

Speakman said the list of excuses was for illustrative purposes, and was not meant to be exhaustive, instead calling for people to use "common sense".

"We've put the main provisions in there... but we're calling on each and every member of the community to exercise common sense, to think of their fellow citizen, and restrict travelling to the absolute essentials," he said.

The maximum penalty for breaching the rules is $11,000, six months in prison, or both. Police can also issue on-the-spot $1,000 fines.

Victoria

In Victoria, premier Andrews gave perhaps the clearest indication yet on the interpretation of the rules, writing on Facebook on Monday night "Stay. In. Your. House."

"There are many complex things in the world -- but this isn't one of them," he wrote.

"Do not have guests over. That includes friends and family. Do not hang out at parks, beaches or other public spaces. Do not leave home unless it's absolutely necessary."

The state's Stay At Home Directions -- under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act -- compel Victorians to "not leave the premises where the person ordinarily resides other than for... necessary goods or services, care or compassionate reasons, work and education, exercise" and "other specified reasons".

Grocery shopping is one of the few excuses for leaving home. Image: Getty

Those "other" reasons include:

  • for emergency purposes;
  • attending a police station or court;
  • if the premises are no longer available or suitable to reside in;
  • moving to a new premises;
  • leaving Victoria, if the person does not live there;
  • "moving between premises" if a person ordinarily resides at more than one house

It is a shorter and less prescriptive list than NSW, and is available here.

The maximum penalty for breaching the rules is nearly $20,000 for an individual.  Police can also issue on-the-spot $1,600 fines.

Queensland

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk tweeted a short version of the rules in her state.

QLD's new Home Confinement Direction prohibits citizens "from leaving their residence except for permitted purposes". The list, available here, says permitted purposes include obtaining food or essentials, medical treatment, exercise, and:

  • visiting a terminally ill relative or attending a funeral;
  • giving assistance, care or support to an immediate family member;
  • attend court;
  • attend work, childcare, school, university or other education, if it cannot be accessed at home

Queensland's rules say a person can be accompanied by members of their household -- defining "household" as "persons who ordinarily live at the same residence" but, unlike other states, also extending it to people if they have "family or kinship customs or cultural obligations have the effect of a person living across multiple residences".

The maximum penalty for breaching the rules is more than $13,000.