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Australia’s Social Distancing Rules: What They Mean For You


A few months ago, the idea of a deadly virus making it illegal to shake hands with someone would have belonged to the realm of science fiction. Few would have imagined that using antibacterial spray or alcohol hand sanitiser on every household surface would become a daily routine. But fast forward to today and it’s the ground reality – not in some nondescript corner of the world but even in thriving, cosmopolitan cities in Australia. This pandemic has forced the world to take unprecedented measures, and Australia’s social distancing rules are no exception.

Alcohol hand sanitiser and hand hygiene in Australia

The Australian government recently announced lockdown measures for the entire country. The rules may sound extreme at first but are very much in line with health experts’ advice for battling the novel coronavirus. They are also in line with what other nations are doing to put the brakes on Covid-19. The rules vary from state to state, but in a nutshell, they follow the same guidelines for maintaining physical distance and good hygiene and hand hygiene.

Stepping out only for ‘essential reasons’:

The greater the physical distance between two people, the more difficult it gets for the coronavirus to spread from one person to the other. Global health associations recommend maintaining a minimum distance of 1.5 metres. This is the core principle around which Australia’s current social distancing rules revolve. Essentially, Australians must not step out in public where they can be in close proximity to one another.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. People can leave home for essential reasons such as buying groceries or medicines, visiting the doctor, or providing care or support to someone living elsewhere. Going to work or school is permitted, but only if working or taking classes from home isn’t possible. Referring to the need for keeping schools open during the lockdown, Prime Minister Morrison has said that closing them down may force doctors, nurses and other critical service providers to stay at home with their children.

Australians can continue to exercise in public spaces, but they must either be alone or in the company of just one other person. Be it in a park, a public transport hub, a departmental store, or any other place, the minimum distance of 1.5 metres between people is to be maintained. Further, the Australian Government Department of Health states in its guidelines that social interactions that involve physical contact (such as “handshaking, hugs and kisses”) should be avoided at this time.

Throughout Australia, not following these rules can easily lead to thousands of dollars in fines. Most states are enforcing a 2-person gathering limit in all public places, with some even placing restrictions on the number of visitors allowed in one’s home. Cross-border movement between states is also restricted due to Australia’s social distancing rules.

Practising good hygiene: hand washing, hand sanitiser use, antibacterial sprays, and more:

Social distancing is necessary, but physical separation between people won’t be enough to stop the spread of coronavirus. The Australian government has also laid down some protocols for maintaining proper hand hygiene to keep the virus at bay.

It is of course important to cover your nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing, make sure used tissues go straight into the dustbin, and wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible. You should also try your best not to touch your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth. Another popular piece of advice is to cough or sneeze into your elbow or upper sleeve instead of your hand. This reduces the risk of spreading the virus because you’re less likely to touch surfaces and people with your elbow.

Despite practising these personal hygiene measures, expecting your environment to stay virus-free is unrealistic. To this end, it’s important to regularly use hand sanitisers, and keep high-touch surfaces clean and disinfected. This applies to homes as well as public spaces.

Within your home, you should regularly clean objects like doorknobs, switches, handrails, tables, kitchen counters and bathroom fixtures. In offices, schools, grocery shops and other public spaces, all frequent-contact surfaces should be thoroughly disinfected. Employees and students should be encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water at regular intervals. Where this isn’t possible, they should use hand sanitisers to prevent the spread of the virus.

In times like these, it’s best to switch from regular cleaning compounds to antibacterial sprays that effectively eliminate microbes from surfaces. It’s also not a bad idea to store a bottle of antimicrobial disinfectant in your car so that you can sterilise objects like your cell phone, keys, wallet or water bottle on the go. Natural yet potent products such as Decon can be particularly convenient, doubling up as an antibacterial spray as well as a hand sanitiser.

How long are the Australian social distancing laws likely to last?

The short answer is, no one knows for sure. Health officials have expressed concern that Australia may end up with a similar fate as northern hemisphere nations like Italy once the weather turns colder. This makes it all the more important to clamp down on the spread of Covid-19 before it burgeons into a full-fledged emergency throughout the nation. This of course poses severe restrictions on citizens’ lives and livelihoods. But there are ways to keep the losses to a minimum.

Isolation takes a toll on one’s physical and mental health. Luckily, you can keep up your social interactions even through the Australian lockdown. The Australian Government Department of Health encourages citizens to keep in touch with their loved ones over phone calls and video chats. You’re also free to chat with your neighbours provided you maintain the 1.5 metre rule!

Organisations and businesses that have to stay open during this time can adopt cleaning and disinfection measures that create safe environments for their employees and customers. Likewise, people can supplement their personal hygiene routines with reliable hand sanitisers and household antibacterial sprays that can prevent high-touch surfaces from turning into coronavirus hotspots.

Covid-19 may have thrown Australia and the world into disarray. But it has brought people from across the globe together in the intent to fight and defeat the virus. In the long run, the coronavirus cloud may have a silver lining. It may turn us into more conscious citizens who take responsibility for their immediate environment and avoid actions that negatively impact it.



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