Gatherings, density and physical distancing

Last Updated: 08 Oct 2020 2:49pm

Gatherings at households – including shacks – are limited to up to 20 people at any one time, not including residents of the household.

The household gathering limit of 20 visitors applies to all private residences including your house, shack or property. The limit applies whether the gathering is taking place indoors or outdoors.

The household gathering limit of 20 visitors applies to all types of gatherings that are held at a residential premises including barbecues, celebrations and events.

You should not visit others or have visitors to your home if you are unwell.

What is a gathering?

A gathering is the total number of people present in any single undivided indoor space, or in the outdoor area of a premises. All individuals – whether they are business operators, staff, volunteers, attendees, children or babies – are considered part of the gathering number.

Why do we have maximum gathering numbers?

Advice from Public Health Services is that a staged easing of restrictions should occur to monitor the transmission risk of COVID-19. This includes a gradual increase in gathering numbers. It is important to note that where the number of people permitted according to the density limit (one person per 2 square metres) is less than the gathering limit, the lower number applies.

Read about the current restrictions on gatherings and Management of Premises Direction.

It is difficult to maintain physical distancing and effective hygiene measures in large public gatherings. Restricting gathering numbers reduces the likelihood of transmission and provides opportunities for the community to continue effective hygiene practices.

Are there any exceptions to the gathering limits?

The limits do not apply to the following specified premises, but the number of people on these premises should not exceed the total number specified in the occupancy permit for the premises under the Building Act 2016. The specified premises are:

  • Airports and premises used for public or commercial transport
  • Medical or health service facilities, including veterinary facilities
  • Disability or aged care facilities
  • Prisons, correctional facilities, youth justice centres
  • Courts or tribunals
  • Parliament
  • Schools, universities, education institutions, childcare facilities, child and family centres
  • Premises that deliver services and support to disadvantaged community members eg those providing homeless accommodation, boarding houses, emergency/social housing, child safety services, foodbanks, employment services, and migrant and refugee assistance
  • Indoor and outdoor spaces where people are transiting through
  • Emergency services.

What about gatherings at home?

If you are hosting an event or gathering at home (or another residential property) e.g. a party, barbecue or birthday celebration, please refer to the above section ‘Household visitors.’

What is the difference between indoor and outdoor gatherings?

An indoor space is any area, room or premises that is substantially enclosed by a roof and walls (this also applies to temporary structures, for example a marquee). Outdoor spaces are not enclosed by a roof or walls. The gathering limit of 1,000 people in the outdoor space of a premises still applies where a premises has several outdoor areas. That is, even if a premises has multiple separate outdoor spaces, a maximum of 1,000 people in total are permitted in the outdoor areas of that premises at one time.

Do the limits apply to the entire venue or individual spaces?

For mixed use venues with multiple indoors spaces, the 250 people indoor gathering cap applies separately to each single undivided space indoors, allowing for two square metres of space per person.

For example, a large hotel with multiple, separate indoor spaces (eg conference room, bar, restaurant, and foyer), is permitted to have up to 250 people for each of these indoor spaces (the density limit applies).

Where a mixed use venue with multiple indoors spaces also has outdoor spaces, a maximum of 1,000 people in total are permitted in the outdoor areas of that premises at one time.

What is meant by the maximum density limit?

The maximum density limit aims to prevent the crowding of people in a space. A premises must not have a density of more than 1 person per 2 square metres of floor space. This means an operator must not allow people to enter or stay on the premises (indoor or outdoor) if the size of the premises is insufficient to allow for 2 square metres of space for each person.

What is the 2 square metres per person rule?

The maximum number of people at a premises is limited by the floor space of the premises, as a minimum of 2 square metres of space is required for each attendee. This is known as the 2 square metre rule.

The maximum number of people allowed at a premises is the smaller number of either:

  • The maximum number of people for which there is 2 square metres per person
  • The maximum number gathering number specified for the type of venue/activity

How to apply the 2 square metres per person rule

To comply with the 2 square metre rule, measure the length and width of the floor space. Multiply the length by the width to calculate the area in square metres, and divide this by 2. The final number is the maximum number of people allowed in the premises (up to the maximum gathering size).

For example, in hospitality venues, the operator of a premises must not allow people to enter or stay on the premises (whether outdoor or indoor) if the size of the premises is insufficient to allow for 2 square metres of space for each person (the four square metre rule).

Where practicable, the operator should:

  • Ensure that staff and patrons are 1.5 metres away from each other. For groups of people seated at the same table, and for staff at times, this will not be practicable.
  • Arrange the premises in such a way so that the 1.5 metre rule can be adhered to between patrons from different tables.
  • Coordinate arrivals and seating of patrons so that crowding does not occur in arrival/waiting areas.
  • Ensure that there is appropriate space between dine-in patrons and takeaway food pickup areas within the premises.

Read more about requirements of businesses under the COVID-19 Safe Workplaces Framework.

How do I stay safe in a gathering?

COVID-19 is spread through contact with people. In any gathering or setting it is important to maintain:

  • physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres between people
  • hand hygiene
  • respiratory hygiene (sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissues and clean your hands after coughing or sneezing)
  • frequent environmental cleaning and disinfection.

Why is staying 1.5 metres from others important?

Physical distancing continues to be the strongest safeguard to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You must continue to maintain a safe distance of no less than 1.5 metres between yourself and others, where safe and practical.

Physical distancing in schools

Physical distancing of children in schools, early childhood centres and playgroups is not required under current restrictions. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advises that there is very limited evidence of transmission of COVID-19 between children.

All adults (including parents/carers) must still maintain physical distance from each other (1.5 metres) but this does not apply to children.

Number of guests at weddings

Churches and commercial premises

The number of guests at a wedding is determined by the size of the venue in line with the current density limits that apply to all venues.

There is a maximum of one person per two square metres.

The number of guests is capped at:

  • 250 people for indoor venues
  • 1,000 people at outdoor venues.

These numbers include the bridal party as well as wedding officials.

Residential premises

Under current restrictions, only 20 people (in addition to the people who normally live at a residential premises) are permitted to gather at a residential premises. This means that a wedding can only be held at a residential property if there are no more than 20 people (including the bridal party, celebrant, caterer, photographers etc, but excluding people who normally live at the property). For example, if the bride and groom live at the property, they are not included in the 20 people limit.

  • If a residential premises is located on a large block of land, that entire block of land is part of the residential premises. A wedding cannot be held on land that forms part of a residential property when there are more than 20 people attending (in addition to the people who normally live at a residential premises).
  • For example, a wedding held in a barn which forms part of a residential premises on acreage would still be limited to 20 persons, in addition to the persons that ordinarily reside at the premises.
  • A farm is considered to be a residential premises if persons reside on the premises (the property).


Due to disease transmission risk posed by the close proximity of people when dancing, restrictions remain in place for dancing.

The wedding couple, the parents or guardians of the wedding couple and the other members of the bridal party are permitted to dance at a wedding or a wedding reception. All other attendees are not permitted to dance under current restrictions.