The federal government has begun the process of phasing out social restrictions with the announcement of guidelines for the reintroduction of group sport and other recreational activities. These ‘national principles’, unveiled on May 1, are not firm regulations, but rather a framework for state authorities as they develop their own locally-tailored rules.
Following a staggered approach, the principles suggest resuming small-group, non-contact activities first, involving no more than ten people. This could include boot camps and group personal training as well as sports like tennis, golf or bushwalking. Swimming pools may also be allowed to reopen. However, the principles note that outdoor activities pose a lower risk than indoor activities and that physical distancing would need to be enforced, suggesting that indoor gym facilities may not be covered by this initial stage, although it is ultimately up to state authorities to decide this.
If phase one proves successful, full-contact sports and activities involving more than ten people would then be allowed, provided strict hygiene protocols are maintained and "significantly enhanced risk mitigation" is followed.
Professional sport would also be allowed to restart, although matches and tournaments would need to remain “spectator-free” for the foreseeable future. Similar restrictions on spectating would also apply to community-level and school-based sport, with those permitted at amateur matches limited to “the minimum required to support the participants".
While the announcement of these national principles is an encouraging signal of a return to some level of normality in Australia, they do not include a specific timeline or an exhaustive list of which sporting or recreational activities should be resumed. However, following the prime minister's announcement on May 1 that the national cabinet would unveil its plan for rolling back current social restrictions on May 8, it is likely that prohibitions on sporting activities could be eased as early as next weekend.