Explaining gatherings and physical distancing

Why do we have maximum gathering numbers?

Advice from Public Health Services is that a staged easing of restrictions should occur to monitor the transmission risk of COVID-19. This includes a gradual increase in gathering numbers. Read about the current restrictions on gatherings and “Gatherings Direction”.

It is difficult to maintain physical distancing and effective hygiene measures in large public gatherings.

Restricting gathering numbers reduces the likelihood of transmission and provides opportunities for the community to continue effective hygiene practices.

What is a gathering?

A gathering is the total number of people present in any single undivided space.

What is the difference between indoor and outdoor gatherings?

An indoor space is any area, room or premises that is substantially enclosed by a roof and walls (this also applies to temporary structures, for example a marquee). Outdoor spaces are not enclosed by a roof or walls.

How do I stay safe in a gathering?

COVID-19 is spread through contact with people. In any gathering or setting it is important to maintain:

  • physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres between people
  • hand hygiene
  • respiratory hygiene (sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissues and clean your hands after coughing or sneezing)
  • frequent environmental cleaning and disinfection

Why is staying 1.5 metres from others important?

Physical distancing continues to be the strongest safeguard to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You must continue to maintain a safe distance of no less than 1.5 metres between yourself and others, where safe and practical.

Why is the 4 square metres per person rule important?

COVID-19 is spread through contact with people. Each person needs 4 square metres of space and this rule applies in all indoor or outdoor locations.

Settings in which the 4 square metres rule does not apply are:

  • in your own house, when it is only you and your immediate household, and/or up to 5 visitors
  • in private vehicles and all forms of public transport including at terminals and bus stops
  • if facilitating shared parenting arrangements
  • if maintaining, renovating or repairing the premises or an item located at the premises
  • if delivering an item to, or removing it from, the premises
  • if delivering medical, health, emergency or legal services, or end of life support, to a person at the premises
  • and a range of other settings including schools and some workplaces.

How to apply the 4 square metres per person rule

To comply with the 4 square metre rule, calculate the area of the room and divide the area of the room by 4, noting that the restriction on gathering numbers (as relevant to the type of premises) dictates the maximum number of people.

In cafes and restaurants, the operator of a premises must not allow people to enter or stay on the premises (whether outdoor or indoor) if the size of the premises is insufficient to allow for 4 square metres of space for each person (the four square metre rule).

Where practicable, the operator should:

  • Ensure that staff and patrons are 1.5 metres away from each other. For groups of people dining at the same table, and for staff at times, this will not be practicable.
  • Arrange the premises in such a way so that the 1.5 metre rule can be adhered to between patrons from different tables.
  • Coordinate arrivals and seating of patrons so that crowding does not occur in arrival/waiting areas.
  • Ensure that there is appropriate space between dine-in patrons and takeaway food pickup areas within the premises.

Read more about requirements of businesses under the COVID-19 Safe Workplaces Framework.