Chief medical officer discusses new world of social distancing in Australia amid coronavirus threat

Australia’s chief medical adviser warned a ‘new world’ has emerged from the coronavirus crisis, where social distancing will be the new normal. 

With more than 337,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus spread throughout 192 countries – including 1,642 in Australia alone – the nation has taken steps toward a total shutdown.

Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, on Monday spoke of a new reality amid closures of pubs, bars, cinemas, gyms and restaurants.

‘We are now in a different world,’ he said. 

‘This world could last for some time… This is the world of social distancing. This is the new way of us interacting with each other all of the time.’ 

There have been 1,642 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Australia. This map shows the states which have closed off the borders to one another amid the crisis

Under the new social distancing and self isolation policies, Australians will have limited choices on activities in public.

Visiting most beaches, holding a play date in the park or throwing birthday parties and christenings will all be discouraged for at least the next six months while authorities try to wrangle the virus.

Similarly, stage one lockdown proceedings are underway across the nation, closing all restaurants, pubs and bars, as well as cafes, cinemas, places of worship and gyms. 

For now, people are able to visit retail stores, hair salons and beauticians, however these may be restricted again if the government is forced to impose stricter lockdowns.

Another major difference in the ‘new world’ is the restrictions on interstate and international holidays. With school holidays fast approaching, families will no longer be able to take a quick trip away to celebrate.

Almost every domestic border has implemented strict control policies, including mandatory 14 day self isolation for any new arrivals. 



Create Home Workouts: With gyms closed, people are encouraged to keep active by working out at home.

If you’re not quarantined, you’re able to go for a walk outside for exercise as long as you abide by the 1.5m social distancing policy.

Get Creative: With the government encouraging people to spend more time indoors than ever before, it’s a perfect opportunity to catch up on tasks you want done around the house.

For little ones, its a great opportunity to do some arts and craft or baking.

Contactless Delivery: Many delivery services are now giving people the option to choose a ‘contactless delivery’ – the best option for social distancing.

Walk The Dog: Unless you’ve been ordered to stay indoors and self isolate due to concerns you could be carrying coronavirus, you should still take your dog for a walk – on your own.


The Beach: Any beaches where the government determined 500 or more people usually congregate have been temporarily closed.  

Walks along the beach, sandy picnics or going for a surf are not acceptable during self isolation. 

The Park: Parents should avoid taking their children to the park to play on any equipment or meet up with other friends during social distancing.

Birthday Parties: People should refrain from throwing or attending parties until the threat of COVID-19 passes.

Unnecessarily Travel: Unless there is an urgent need to leave home, or your suburb, it is best to stay put to avoid contracting the virus or passing it on to someone more vulnerable. 

Go To Appointments While Sick: At the moment, hairdressers and beauticians are still open. It is best to reschedule appointments if you’re feeling unwell. 

Beachgoers are seen at Bondi Beach on Friday (pictured) despite the threat of coronavirus, leading to the temporary closure of the beach

Beachgoers are seen at Bondi Beach on Friday (pictured) despite the threat of coronavirus, leading to the temporary closure of the beach

Mr Murphy said it is imperative to public health that Australians begin taking social distancing policies more seriously.



On Friday, thousands flocked to Bondi beach despite government orders to remain at a safe 1.5m distance from one another.

In response, Prime Minister Scott Morrison closed the beach – and many others – for the foreseeable future.  

‘Most Australians do the right thing but it is no longer acceptable to people to breach that,’ Mr Murphy said.

He said the ‘draconian measures’ that were introduced overnight to close non-essential places of gathering, including places of worship, were agreed upon by all state leaders after concluding that Australians weren’t taking the crisis seriously enough. 

‘There may be minor differences in interpretation, but the message is very clear. Do not get close to people other than your family, and do not go to gatherings where you are close to people.’

Mr Murphy discussed a ‘social responsibility’ to slow the spread of the virus by following public health advice.

‘This is serious business now. Nobody can approach this in a cavalier way… I’m not directing that at young people, I’m directing that at all Australians.

Empty tables at a restaurant in Circular Quay in Sydney on Saturday. Bars, restaurants and cafes have all been forced to close dine in services

Empty tables at a restaurant in Circular Quay in Sydney on Saturday. Bars, restaurants and cafes have all been forced to close dine in services

‘You are putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk if you don’t toe the line.’ 

 In response to the growing threat of COVID-19, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the state would join the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania in closing the borders.

The ban will likely mean that anyone entering Queensland will have to isolate for 14 days.

Australia closed the borders to non-residents last week, but anybody returning home will be required to ‘rigorously quarantine for 14 days,’ Mr Murphy said. 

‘If you know anyone who has returned from overseas and is not quarantining, please come down very hard on them. 

‘The imported cases will slow down but the challenge in the coming weeks and months is to slow the transmission of the virus.’



Real estate agents are still able to operate as usual during the coronavirus crisis under stage one lockdown procedures.

In fact, there has been a sharp upturn in business as people seek to sell their homes and investment properties as the world heads toward recession.

‘There will be a spike in listings from get-out-early, worried landlords,’ predicted.

Many landlords will look to sell, due to the risk of tenants and prospective tenants losing their income and being unable to pay rent. 

Renters in that predicament will also be using agents to look for more budget accommodation options. 


Clothing stores and hardware stores are exempt from the current lockdown, but will some may close or reduce opening hours and staff hours as people become reluctant to be out in public.

It remains unclear if these stores would close if the government were to impose further restrictions. 


Drinkers rushed to bottle shops around Australia on Sunday, fearing an imminent lockdown, before the Prime Minister confirmed liquor stores would stay open. 

Shoppers packed stores across the country after government officials announced the pending shutdown of non-essential services.

Twitter was awash with pictures of the panic queues both at the drive-thrus and in stores.

One local store owner said he’d down three weeks worth of trading in two hours on Sunday.

But the government confirmed that – for now – bottle shops could continue to operate as usual. 


At present, hairdressers, beauticians and nail technicians will continue to operate as usual.

The exemption shocked some, including those in the industry, as the job involves physical contact with others.

‘How are we supposed to practice safe social distancing?,’ one hairdresser posted on a Facebook thread.

‘All day we’re touching people’s faces and hair… I’m surprised I still have a job.’

While they can stay open for the time being, the hairdresser said was busier than ever as people rush to get their hair done before a possible future shutdown.