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A crowd of people in surgical masks walk down the street
Photograph: Yoav Aziz/Unsplash

A timeline of Covid-19 in Australia, two years on

The first Covid-19 case was detected in Australia on January 25, 2020. What have we learnt since then?

Cassidy Knowlton
Written by
Cassidy Knowlton
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It's hard to believe that while Australia was so focused on the bushfires that raged in the early part of 2020, another threat was already on our shores – one that would change the way we live and work for years. Covid-19 was first detected in Australia on January 25, 2020. More than two years old, we've passed another grim milestone: 10,000 people have now died of Covid-19 in Australia.

Not ready or able to re-enter the world? Here are the best things to do while you're stuck at home.

January 25, 2020

A man who had flown from Guandong, China, to Melbourne on January 19, 2020, tests positive for Covid-19, becoming Australia’s first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. On the same day, three men in NSW also test positive for coronavirus. Two had travelled to Wuhan, China, and the third was a close contact of the two travellers.

March 1, 2020

The first person in Australia to die of Covid-19 dies in a Western Australia hospital. The 78-year-old man had been a passenger aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and was the first WA resident to test positive for the disease. His wife was the second. 

March 11, 2020

The World Health Organisation declares the novel coronavirus to be a pandemic.

Time In logo
Time Out

March 13, 2020

Time Out rebrands as Time In worldwide to bring our readers ways to connect with their cities and support urban culture without leaving home. 

March 15, 2020

The NSW government cancels all major events of more than 500 people.

The Victorian government cancels the F1 Grand Prix, hours before the event.

March 18, 2020

The federal government announces these measures, to be implemented by state governments:

  • a ban on non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 or more people (including staff);
  • a ban on outdoor gatherings of 500 or more people to continue in place;
  • people only consider travel when it is essential;
  • strict visitation rules for aged care facilities including a limit of two visitors a day and preferably no children under 16 years of age;
  • social distancing measures of 1.5 metres; and
  • lifting work restrictions on 20,000 student nurses so they can be engaged to help respond to the pandemic.

March 19, 2020 

Australia closes its borders to everyone who is not a resident or citizen. Panic buying leaves supermarket shelves bare, leading the prime minister to urge calm and compassion at the shops: “There is no issue with food supply in Australia, but there is an issue with the behaviour of Australians in supermarkets." 

Almost 2,700 passengers aboard the Ruby Princess cruise ship are permitted to leave the ship in Sydney without being tested for Covid-19. There are confirmed positive cases on board at the time, and 130 people test positive within a week. The ship is later linked to up to 900 infections of Covid-19.

March 23, 2020

National Cabinet agrees that the states will close:

  • Pubs, registered clubs
  • Gyms, indoor sporting venues 
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and nightclubs 
  • Restaurants and cafés except for takeaway and/or home delivery 

Melbourne distiller Gypsy Hub is the first (that we know of) to pivot to making hand sanitiser.

Deserted Melbourne Street
Photograph: Twitter/@br19800

March 25, 2020 

The streets of Melbourne are eerily quiet as people stay at home.

Haymarket during Sydney shutdown
Photograph: Maxim Boon

March 27, 2020 

We hit the streets of Sydney and find the normally bustling metropolis completely empty.

March 30, 2020

Victorian premier Dan Andrews announces that only two people may gather outside unless they are members of a household, as well as the only four reasons people are permitted to leave home:

  • For exercise;
  • For food and supplies;
  • For work or education; and
  • To access medical care or provide caregiving. 

March 31, 2020

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard announces that there are 16 reasons to leave home in NSW. These include the reasons listed in Victoria, in addition to things like attending weddings or funerals.

Two teddies in a window
Photograph: Nicola Dowse

People in Melbourne start putting teddy bears in their windows for children to find on daily exercise walks.

April 2, 2020

Couples who don't live together are permitted to visit in Victoria.

Dogs in the aquarium
Photograph: Sydney Aquarium

April 16, 2020

Sydney Aquarium staff bring their dogs to the closed aquarium to see the fish.

Sourdough fruit loaf
Photograph: Jess Ho

May 5, 2020

Everyone is trying (and failing) to make sourdough.

May 10, 2020

The NSW government announces that from May 15, the following will be allowed:

  • Outdoor gatherings of up to ten people
  • Cafés and restaurants to seat up to ten people at any one time; and
  • Up to five visitors to a household at any one time.

May 11, 2020

The Victorian government announces an easing of restrictions, allowing: 

  • Gatherings of ten people outside;
  • Up to five people visiting at home;
  • Up to ten guests at weddings;
  • Up to 20 people at an indoor funeral or 30 for an outdoor funeral; and
  • Some outdoor activities.

June 1, 2020

Time Out announces the winners of the Time In Awards, supporting businesses and organisations that pivoted to new initiatives during lockdowns.  

NSW announces more of its restrictions will ease, allowing people in the state to:

  • Travel to regional NSW for a holiday
  • Attend places of worship and attend a funeral with up to 49 others; and
  • Visit a campground or caravan park.

June 2, 2020

Then-NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announces that from July 1, the following will be allowed:

  • Gyms and fitness studios can reopen with up to ten people per class and 100 people in an indoor venue;
  • Children’s sport and community sports competition can resume; and
  • Tattoo and massage parlours can reopen with up to ten clients.

June 30, 2020

Victoria announces postcodes 3038, 3064, 3047, 3060, 3012, 3032, 3055, 3042, 3021 and 3046 will go back into lockdown from July 2.

July 7, 2020

The rest of Victoria goes back into lockdown, as Sydney restrictions ease further.

Woman wearing a mask in public
Photograph: Kate Trifo / Unsplash

July 10, 2020

Victoria asks (but does not mandate) people to wear masks in public for the first time.

August 16, 2020

Victoria announces tough new lockdown measures, including the 5km rule and an overnight curfew. Retail shops like Bunnings are closed for the first time. Masks are now required.

September 6, 2020

Victoria's roadmap out of lockdown is announced.

September 28, 2020

Victoria adds 'outdoor recreation' to the reasons to leave home, allowing picnics for the first time since July.

Woman in yellow jacket wearing a beige mask
Photograph: Pexels/Creative Commons

October 15, 2020

We reflect on what we've learnt after 100 days of lockdown in Melbourne.

October 26, 2020

Victoria's second lockdown ends.

December 19, 2020

The Sydney suburb of Avalon records an outbreak of Covid-19, after NSW had gone 12 days with zero community transmission. Local lockdown orders are reinstated in the northern beaches. Victoria closes its borders with NSW.

January 9, 2021

Lockdown orders end for Sydney's northern beaches.

February 12, 2021

Victoria goes into lockdown for the third time.

February 18, 2021

Victoria's third lockdown ends.

February 22, 2021

The first Covid-19 vaccine doses are administered in Australia. 

May 6, 2021

Sydney temporarily reintroduces mask-wearing and imposes limits on visitors to the home.

May 27, 2021

Victoria enters lockdown for the fourth time.

June 3, 2021

Lockdown measures ease in regional Victoria but remain in metropolitan Melbourne.

June 11, 2021

Melbourne exits its fourth lockdown.

Kings Cross under lockdown
Photograph: Maxim Boon

June 25, 2021

Sydney announces lockdown measures for suburbs across the city as the Bondi outbreak grows. The affected LGAs are Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick, and the City of Sydney, including the CBD.

July 15, 2021

Victoria enters its fifth lockdown

July 27, 2021

Victoria's fifth lockdown ends, but less than a week later, the state is plunged back into another long lockdown.

August 5, 2021

Victoria goes into lockdown for the sixth time

August 19, 2021

Sydneysiders are restricted to 5km of home.

Two people overlooking Sydney
Photograph: Kevin Laminto/Unsplash

August 23, 2021

Sydneysiders who live alone are permitted to establish a 'single's bubble' with a friend. 

October 11, 2021 

Sydney is released from lockdown on 'freedom day'. 

A woman with purple hair holds a hairless cat in front of a bookcase
Photograph: Marion HillebrandMarion Hillebrand and her cat

October 21, 2021

Melbourne exits its sixth lockdown, after 263 cumulative days. Melbourne spent more time in lockdown than any other city on Earth. 

January 23, 2022

With daily case numbers in the tens of thousands, NSW health officials and Victorian authorities are cautiously optimistic that the state has passed the peak of the current Omicron outbreak.

July 3, 2022

Daily case numbers remain at tens of thousands in NSW and Victoria. More than 10,000 Australians have now died of Covid-19. The new BA.5 variant is considered to be even more transmissible than previous Omicron variants.

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