Can I go fishing or bushwalking? Coronavirus rules in Western Australia
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.
We asked legal experts in Western Australia – Natalie Skead and Michael Douglas from the University of Western Australia – to help shed some light on what the new rules might mean for residents of their state.
Can I visit my parents?
If you’re a child with parents who live apart, and you move between each of your parent’s homes, then you can keep doing that.
Aside from that, you can’t organise a prohibited gathering, which includes more than two people in “a single undivided indoor space” like a room or even a patio, unless you maintain 4m² distancing.
So, yes, you can visit your parents if you each stay sufficiently far from one another, but you can’t hug mum! Sunday family dinner is off the cards for now.
There is an exception “for the purposes of providing care or assistance … to a vulnerable person or providing emergency assistance”. The terms “care” and “vulnerable person” are not defined. If one of your parents has a disability or a health condition, and you want to look after them, then visiting them is okay.
It also depends on where your parents live. The parents of one of the authors (Michael) live down south, while he lives in Perth. It was his dad’s birthday on Wednesday. The intra-state travel restrictions meant he could not visit the elder Douglas. They all had a FaceTime birthday dinner instead.
But there’s an exemption for “compassionate grounds” — like one of your parents is seriously ill, or an immediate family member has died. Visiting a parent on their birthday is not enough.
If your parents live in certain parts of the Kimberley, or a remote Aboriginal community, visiting may require quarantine under restrictions made by both the state and federal governments, if it is permissible at all under the Prohibited Regional Travel Directions. The situation there is not good and by the time you read this, visiting may be prohibited.
If your parents are interstate and you are in WA, then the answer is more complicated. Seek legal advice.
Can I go fishing or bushwalking?
The Preventative Restriction of Activities Directions do not specifically address fishing or bushwalking. But doing either with more than two people would be a prohibited gathering. That means you can only walk in the bush with the people who you are currently living with or one other person you don’t live with, but even then stay appropriately socially distanced.
Fishing is a bit murkier. Western Australia appears to have taken some guidance from a since deleted Facebook post, by the Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Mark Bailey, who attempted to clarify the boating and fishing rules as permitting boaters to fish for food to travel locally in their community.
The latest advice from the WA government is the social distancing rules for gatherings of no more than two in public places apply on the land and the sea, meaning they apply to both boat- and land-based fishing.
So, you can fish for food with one friend, or those you live with. If you’re going out on a boat, though, it will need to be a biggish one to accommodate the 1.5m/4m² distancing rule.
It also depends on where you propose to fish or bushwalk. You can’t do either outside your “region”.
Can I go for a drive?
The Australian government’s Department of Health says “all Australians are required to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to go outside”.
This means you can only go for a drive to buy essential food, to attend to health needs (visiting a doctor or a pharmacy), or on compassionate grounds (for example, to care for a vulnerable person). So you should not go for a leisurely drive just to get out the house.
You can’t drive outside your region.
Can I visit my boyfriend/girlfriend?
Under the directions, a gathering of two people indoors is not permitted “where there is not at least 4m² of space for each person at the gathering”.
This means you can visit your girlfriend or boyfriend provided the room you’re in is big enough, but you cannot touch them!
One might argue spending time with the girlfriend or boyfriend falls under the “care for vulnerable person” exception. That’s a weak argument.
An important exception applies where the “gathering” is with a member of the same household, meaning two or more persons who usually reside at the same place, irrespective of whether those persons are related to each other.
So if you immediately move in to your partner’s place, and then stay there, you may be okay to touch them, legally speaking. But you may be putting each other at unnecessary risk.
If your partner lives in another “region”, then you cannot visit them (even to move in).
Can I go for a walk around my neighbourhood or sit on a park bench?
A walk around your neighbourhood — or on the beach — to get some fresh air or catch up with a friend, is not currently covered by state restrictions provided you limit it to a walk with only one friend or those with whom you live.
That said, given your walk would flout the federal Department of Health requirement we all “stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to go outside”, we suggest you think twice before heading out.
Sitting outdoors on a park bench or other public space with members of your household or one other person observing the social distancing rules, is not prohibited by WA’s restrictions against public gatherings. But, again, the federal government cautions strongly against hanging out in public, so you probably shouldn’t.
Written by Michael Lund and Wes Mountain. Republished with permission of The Conversation.