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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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Over the next two to three months, as social restrictions across the country are relaxed, everyday life in Australia will begin to regain some sense of normality. So, after weeks cooped up indoors, unable to access the places or people that make our cities so vibrant, it’ll be tempting to just throw our arms around our nearest and dearest and jump headlong into living life to the fullest once more. 

But hold up, you keen bean; while you will be able to do that eventually, that time has not yet come. As social restrictions are gradually rolled back, Australia will enter perhaps the most critical and potentially dangerous phase of its response to the pandemic. ‘Stay at home’ rules are being eased, but ‘stay safe’ rules now need to be followed to the letter if we’re going to avoid a second wave of infection. 

So, while we encourage you to take full advantage of the new freedoms we’ll be able to enjoy from May 15, when NSW enters stage one of its restrictions rollback, for the sake of everyone across the state, please follow these important rules on social distancing and enhanced hygiene.

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.

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.

Consider downloading the CovidSafe app

This government-made app is a way for health authorities to track possible person to person spread of the disease. The contract tracing technology doesn’t map your position, but rather logs your relative position to other devices using a Bluetooth ‘handshake’. All the data is stored on your phone and can only be released with your express permission should you test positive. Otherwise, the data is automatically deleted after 21 days without ever leaving your possession. Concerns over data security and privacy have been raised by some tech experts, so be sure to read up on the app’s conditions before downloading.

Clued up on the latest rules?

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