explainer

EXPLAINER: Exactly what you can and can't do in a public park right now.

It’s been causing endless arguments online – and a few face-to-face ones as well. With the coronavirus pandemic, what exactly can we do in parks and open spaces right now?

Well, that’s a tricky question. Here goes.

First of all, can I actually still go to the park?

Yes, if it’s for exercise. The Federal Government is giving “strong guidance” to people to stay at home unless they need to go out for essential reasons, such as work (if a person can’t work from home) or shopping for food and essential items. 

Another one of those essential reasons is exercising – or, to be more specific, “going out for personal exercise in the neighbourhood”. (So don’t go for a long drive just to get to a park you like. Also, keep in mind that some of your favourite outdoor locations, including beaches, might be closed when you get there.) 

In some states, particularly Victoria, NSW and Queensland, this is more than just “strong guidance”. People can be fined if they leave the house for a non-essential reason. Exercise is considered essential. But the Victorian Government is advising that visits to the park should be “kept short”.

If you’re over 70, or over 60 and have a chronic illness, or over 50 and Indigenous, you’re strongly advised not to leave your house at all. 

Mamamia’s Claire Murphy breaks down your most asked questions about COVID-19. Post continues below.

Video by MMC

Are there any parts of parks that I need to avoid?

Yes. Playgrounds, outdoor gym equipment and skate parks have all been closed, so even if you can sneak in and get to them, you shouldn’t. That’s because the coronavirus can linger on surfaces for days. 

The Victorian Government is advising that children shouldn’t be allowed to touch outdoor chairs and tables and shouldn’t be allowed to drink from drinking fountains, which sounds like sensible advice for adults to follow as well.

Who can I go to the park with?

You can go on your own, or with other people in your household (that’s people who live at the same address as you), or with one other person. This means you can still have a one-on-one personal training session, but boot camps are banned. With that one other person, you still have to maintain physical distancing – that means staying 1.5 metres away from them. 

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The “one other person” limit is strict in those states that are fining people for breaking the rules. Police in Victoria will be approaching people hanging out in groups of more than two. Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton was asked on the ABC if two friends with babies could go for a walk together. His answer: No. 

Mamamia’s daily news podcast, The Quicky, answers all your questions about COVID-19. Post continues below.

How far away do I have to stay from other people?

The rule is to keep at least 1.5 metres away from everyone. The further away people are from each other, the harder it is for the virus to spread. The 1.5 metre rule should apply at all times, even if you’re on a path and someone is coming the other way. So make the effort to keep left or even veer onto the grass, otherwise you’re likely to get yelled at.  

Do we need to keep an even greater physical distance from runners? Dr Norman Swan thinks so. 

“When I’m out running I steer clear of other people, and I certainly steer clear of runners coming towards me, because these, in a sense, project that bigger tidal volume, that bigger depth of breathing and rapid breathing,” he said. “If they had COVID-19, then they could actually be spraying it out more than normal.”

The 1.5 metre rule applies to children too, so you need to keep a close eye on your kids and make sure they’re not getting close to other kids at the park – if that’s possible.

Feature Image: Getty.

Read more on COVID-19

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, remain in your home unless strictly necessary, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.


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