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Social distancing explained hero shot
Photograph: Time Out

Sydney's social distancing rules explained and how to go out safely

Everything you need know about how to protect yourself as social restrictions ease

By Maxim Boon
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Stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people

This applies even if they are your friends, even if you’re in that person's house or an apartment, even if you’re exercising together, and even if everyone you’re with is symptom-free. The only exceptions are members of your household or your exclusive partner. Research has shown that physical contact is the primary method of transmission, so hugs, handshakes and high-fives are on hiatus until further notice.

Wash your hands as regularly as possible

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 can survive on certain surfaces for up to five days – including on your skin. The most effective way to disinfect your hands is to thoroughly wash them for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. If you are out and about, hand san is also a very effective stopgap, and many of Sydney’s top boutique distilleries are producing their own using the same stills where they brew their hooch, so invest if you'd like to support a local business while staying Covid safe.

Wear a mask

The current health advice in NSW is that you should wear a mask in public where it is difficult to maintain physical distancing. This includes on public transport, in shops and supermarkets, and at markets or other outdoor places where large numbers of people can gather. Here's our guide on how to wear a mask correctly and a list of places in Sydney where you can buy a mask right now.

Don't touch your face when you’re outside your home

You might well be shocked by the amount of time our mitts spend touching our mugs. Throughout the day, we might absentmindedly scratch our chins and bite our fingernails. We might rub an eye or, if no one’s looking, give our nose a cheeky pick. This all adds up to a lot of facetime for whatever nasties may be on your hands, so avoiding that unconscious touching is extremely important.

If you need to cough or sneeze, give it the elbow

Most of us are well mannered enough to cover our mouths when we need to clear our throat, but whereas it was once a sign of good manners to shield your mouth with your hands, the crook of your elbow is now the best place to unleash a cough or sneeze. This way, you won’t only be protecting those around if you’re infected, you’ll also be protecting yourself from whatever might already be on your hands.

If you have even the slightest of symptoms, get tested

Our society has conditioned us to not make a fuss and just get on with it when we’re a bit under the weather. Those days are gone. If you have even a slight cough, a bit of a runny nose or a touch of joint pain, or even if you’re just feeling a little more tired than usual, you need to get tested for Covid-19 immediately. In the majority of people, symptoms can be extremely mild, and even asymptomatic cases are still capable of passing the infection on. There are testing centres across the city and results will arrive within 24 hours by text. Either way, positive or negative, you’ll know exactly what to do regarding isolating and seeking further treatment.

Be mindful of your mental health

There are many reasons why the pandemic has put an incredible strain on our mental wellbeing. From the existential anxiety of being surrounded by an outbreak, to the stress of losing a livelihood, to the insidious impact of isolation, there are myriad ways our mental health can be affected. Be on the lookout for the symptoms of depression and anxiety in yourself and those around you, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Clued up on the latest rules?

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