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 5) 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 27 June 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.

If you want to get together with other people in a public or private place (whether indoors or outdoors), the only rule is that there must be at least 2 square metres for each person in the undivided space you are sharing. There is no longer a limit to the number of people in the gathering as long as the 2 square metre rule is followed, subject to rules about certain activities

There are a number of exceptions to the 2 square metre rule for gatherings. 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 to the 2 square metre rule is contained in paragraph 12 of the Directions.

The rules about gatherings operate together with rules that prohibit or control certain activities and rules that control public access to certain places. A gathering may fit within the 2 square metre rule, but still be subject to rules about the particular type of activity or place. For example, there are special rules that apply to hairdressers and beauty salons.  See further under the next headings.

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, under paragraph 13 of the Directions.

The only activity that is currently completely prohibited is a 'music festival'. This covers an event that is music and/or dance focussed, has musical performances by more than 3 headline performers and/or groups and is held over a period of 5 hours or more. 

The only activities that are still subject to certain special conditions are beauty therapy services, which include massage, nail, hairdressing and similar services. For these there must be at least 1.5 metres between each customer.

Other activities that were previously only allowed under certain conditions may now operate without any conditions. This includes weddings, funerals and open house inspections.

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.

What are the rules about affected places?

The Directions no longer require that certain ‘affected places’ be closed to the public. Further, the restrictions imposed on some places have been lifted. For example, pubs, bars, clubs, hotels, cafes and restaurants are no longer required to only serve food to patrons who are seated. Further, there is no longer a requirement to keep a written register of the patrons attending.

Note, however, the 2 square metre rule continues to apply to gatherings in public and private places, whether indoors or outdoors and there are limits to the number of people allowed at Optus Stadium, HBF Park and RAC Arena (see paragraph 11(d) of the Directions).

What happens to the information in a written register?

From 7 June 2020 and until the rules were relaxed on 27 June 2020, there was a requirement that certain places keep a written register of the patrons attending. The register included the name and ‘phone number of every patron as well as the date and time of attendance. The purpose of the register was to help trace the potential spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Despite the removal of this requirement on 27 June 2020, any register previously created must be retained by the place for 28 days after the State of Emergency is removed.

Further, the place must continue to comply with the rules about how the information in the register may be used.  The personal information you provided for inclusion in a written register may only be disclosed and used for contact tracing, or in a way that is otherwise permitted by law (see paragraph 14 of the Directions).


Reviewed: 29 June 2020


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