From 11.59pm on Sunday, September 13, metropolitan Melbourne entered its ‘first step’ on our roadmap to a Covid-normal. This step (which we’re colloquially calling “stage four with benefits”) means Melburnians can (among other things) leave their homes for two hours a day and engage in something called “outdoor recreation”, outside of the already permitted exercise time. 

There has been quite a bit of confusion regarding seeing friends and family outside now, so we thought we’d clear up a few frequently asked questions. Remember, if you need further clarification, please head to the DHHS website

So what can we currently do?
You can meet up with one friend or family member (that you don’t live with) outside. When meeting with said person, you have to meet at a location that is within 5km of both of your homes. You can drive to this destination

Do we have to be exercising when together?
So, from September 14, you don’t have to be exercising to hang out. You can now socialise.

What does “socialising” mean?
Socialising could be sitting on a park bench, having a lazy kick with a footy, reading a book or having a picnic. If you don’t live with this person, physical distancing measures should be maintained.

Do we have to wear masks?
Yes, absolutely. You must wear a mask. 

So picnics are really back? How do I eat with a mask on?
Yes, picnics are allowed with one other person or with your household (not one other person and your household). Masks should be worn at all times unless you’re eating or drinking. So you are allowed to lower your mask when taking a bite but don’t take this too far. Masks are there for your safety and the safety of your picnic partner. It’s also a good idea not to share food if you don’t live together. 

Ok, what about my housemates or other family members? Does it still have to be a maximum of two people outside?
From September 14, you are allowed to exercise and spend time outdoors with your household. 

Can I see two different friends on two different days? Or can I only catch up with one friend outdoors?
Don’t get this confused with the “social bubble” rules for indoor gatherings (read them here if you need a refresher). For outdoor hangs, you can only catch up with one person or your household members outdoors at any one time. But, you can choose different friends to catch up with outdoors at different times – so, theoretically, I can meet up with Friend A on Monday and Friend B on Tuesday. 

How long can we picnic for?
We still have a limit on how long we can be outdoors – it’s now two hours (but that can be broken up into a maximum of two sessions). This two hours is inclusive of both socialising and exercising – so you can’t exercise for two hours then go socialise outside for one hour. You have a maximum of two hours to do both so use your time wisely. 

Does “public outdoor place” mean a park? A barbecue spot? My front yard? My back yard? Where can we meet up?
You can only have someone over to your house if they are in your single social bubble. Otherwise, you cannot invite others over for a barbecue in your backyard, or even a picnic in your front yard. It needs to be a public park or garden outside of your home. 

What if I have no friends? Can I hang out in a park by myself?
Absolutely! Read that book. Get that vitamin D. Just remember to wear a mask and stay for only two hours. 

What if me and my partner want to hang out with another couple?
I SEE YOU BEING SNEAKY! We’ve all seen groups of two walking suspiciously close behind one another and it’s really obvious what you’re doing. Please, just be smart here folks. 

The reason we have these rules in place is to keep everyone safe and healthy. Please use common sense and limit the number of people you’re really interacting with. I know it’s hard, and I know how much y’all miss seeing friends and family, but don’t abuse the rules.

Got more questions? Here’s what you can and can’t do in Victoria right now.

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