COVID-19: Prohibited gatherings and activities

Government Directions on community gatherings, activities and places

On 15 March 2020 the WA government declared a State of Emergency in response to COVID-19. This allowed it to use emergency powers to create legally enforceable directions (rules) which aim to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Closure and Restriction (Limit the Spread) Directions (No 3) are aimed at controlling community gatherings, activities and public access to certain places. These Directions are updated by the Government as circumstances change. The most recent updates came into operation on 18 May 2020 and are summarised below.

What is a gathering?

A gathering is when people come together or meet as a group. 

What are the rules about gatherings in Western Australia?

The Directions say that you must not organise or attend a ‘prohibited gathering’ and you must not allow a ‘prohibited gathering’ on premises you own, control or operate.

These rules about prohibited gatherings differ depending on whether the gathering is in a private or a public place.

If you want to get together with other people in a private space (whether indoors or outdoors), the only rule is that there must be at least 4 square metres of space for each person in any undivided space you are sharing.

If you want to get together with others in a public place (whether indoors or outdoors), again there must be at least 4 square metres for each person in the undivided space you are sharing, but in addition, there cannot be more than 20 people in the gathering.

There are a number of exceptions to these rules. For example:

  • when all the people in the gathering belong to the same household (e.g. all live in the same house)
  • when you go to an airport, shopping centre or medical service facility
  • when you take public transport or taxis, or you are in a car
  • when you go to court.

The full list of exceptions is contained in paragraph 12 of the Directions.

The rules about gatherings operate together with rules that prohibit certain activities. A gathering may fit within the rules above, but still not be allowed because it is listed as a prohibited activity.

What are the rules about prohibited activities?

The Directions say that in addition to the rules about gatherings, you must not engage in, organise or attend a ‘prohibited activity’.

A ‘prohibited activity’ is either completely prohibited or allowed under certain conditions.

Activities that are completely prohibited include real estate auctions, most beauty therapy services, and sporting activities which ordinarily involve some or all of the participants coming into bodily contact.

There are a number of activities that are allowed as long as certain conditions are met. They are:

  • open house inspections (home opens) with at least 4 square meters of space per person, no more than 20 people attending at one time (including the person conducting the inspection), a record of who has attended and alcohol hand rub provided at the entrance and exit, which those attending are encouraged to use
  • instructed personal or group training  involving no more than 20 people (excluding the instructor), with at least 4 square meters of space per person, and where there is no sharing of equipment between people, each participant does not ordinarily come into bodily contact with any other participant or the instructor, and equipment used for the training is cleaned after the training, before it is used again
  • hairdressers or barbers if there is at least 1.5 meters between each customer and no more than 20 people are in attendance at one time
  • a wedding, as long as there are no more than 20 people if it is indoors, or 30 people if it is outdoors (excluding the celebrant) and with at least 4 square meters of space per person
  • a funeral, as long as there are no more than 20 people if it is indoors, or 30 people if it is outdoors (excluding the people required to run the funeral) with at least 4 square meters of space per person, or if approved by the State Emergency Coordinator
  • sporting activities which do not ordinarily involve bodily contact, with no more than 20 participants and at least 4 square meters of space per person, and any equipment used is cleaned before it is used again.

These exceptions are contained in paragraph 14 of the Directions.

What if I break the rules about prohibited gatherings or activities?

If you break the rules about prohibited gatherings or activities, you can be charged by the police with breaking the law. The maximum penalty if you are charged and dealt with in a court is 12 months imprisonment or a fine of $50,000.

Alternatively, police can issue you with a $1000 infringement on the spot.

Closure of certain places

The Directions also say that certain ‘affected places’ must be closed to the public, or may be open under certain conditions. The full list of affected places and the conditions under which some of them may open, is contained in paragraph 15 of the Directions.

The relaxation of these rules on 18 May means that pubs, bars, clubs, hotels, cafes and  restaurants may re-open as long as:

  • meals are served
  • alcohol is only provided together with a meal
  • there is at least 4 square meters per patron in the dining area
  • there are no more than 20 patrons at the place at any time (excluding any person present to collect takeaway), and
  • a written register is kept of who attends.

The written register must record the name and ‘phone number of every patron as well as the date and time of attendance. Therefore, you must provide your name and ‘phone number if you want to attend a place to have a meal.

Places such as gyms and indoor sporting centres may also now re-open as long as they meet certain conditions, which includes keeping a written register.  If you want to attend such places, you must provide your name and ‘phone number for recording on the written register.

Some places are now allowed to re-open to sell goods but not to provide services. For example, beauty therapy services such as nail salons and massage parlours may open to sell goods but cannot provide nail and massage services, as these remain ‘prohibited activities’.

Places such as cinemas, nightclubs and casinos remain closed.

What happens to the information in a written register?

The purpose of a written register of people who have attended a place is to help trace the potential spread of COVID-19 in the community. The personal information you provide for a register may only be disclosed and used for contact tracing, or in a way that is otherwise permitted by law. 


Reviewed: 18 May 2020


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