Gatherings, density and physical distancing

Last Updated: 13 Jan 2021 1:12pm

Gatherings at residential premises – including shacks – are limited to up to 100 people (including children and babies) at any one time. This limit includes all residents of the household and the people who ordinarily reside at the house or shack.

The household gathering limit of 100 people applies whether the gathering is indoors or outdoors, and for all types of gatherings, including barbecues and celebrations.

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
  • Boats or pontoons used for commercial tourism purposes with outdoor spaces that are used by patrons for the majority of the tour
  • Emergency services.

A Framework for COVID-19 Safe Events and Activities in Tasmania

The Tasmanian Government has released A Framework for COVID Safe Events and Activities in Tasmania, which supports organisers to plan COVID-safe gatherings from 1 December 2020 that exceed the gathering limits in the Management of Premises Direction.

Depending on the risk profile of the event, it will be classed as Level 1, 2 or 3, and different controls will apply depending on the level.

The Mass Gatherings Direction provides a legal basis for the Framework.

More information on the COVID-19 Safe Events and Activities Framework.

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.

Indoor theatres and cinema are permitted to have up to 75 per cent of their usual seated capacity in line with the gathering limits

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 two 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 people permitted at a wedding at a church, commercial or a public venue (including a public park) is determined by the size of the venue and the current density limits that apply to all venues.

The maximum number of people permitted is one person per two square metres, up to a limit of 250 people for indoor venues and 1 000 people for outdoor venues.

These numbers include all persons (including children and babies) present at the wedding, including the bridal party, celebrant, guests, photographers, caterers, musicians and drivers.

Residential premises

Up to a total of 100 people (including children and babies) are permitted to gather at a residential premises, including for weddings.

This cap of 100 persons includes the people who normally live at the house, as well as the bridal party, celebrant, guests, photographers, caterers, musicians and driver.

The limit of 100 people still applies if the wedding is held on a large private property, farm or block of land that also includes a residential premises, unless the part of the property that the wedding is being held is, as part of its normal operations for the provision of services at that property, is normally used for weddings.

A wedding held in a barn on a property that forms part of a residential premise on acreage would still be limited to 100 people, including those who usually live there.

A farm is considered to be a residential premise if people live there. However, if part of that farm is primarily used for the sale or goods or the provision of services such as weddings, this part of the property can continue to operate in accordance with its normal operations.

Standing drinking of alcohol and dancing

There is no change to the maximum density limits of one person per two square metres up to a limit of 250 people in an indoor space and 1 000 people in an outdoor space of a non-residential premises, whichever is the lesser.

Up to a maximum total of 100 people in the indoor spaces of a premises and a total of up to a maximum 250 people in the outdoor spaces of a non-residential premises are permitted to stand while drinking alcohol and/or dance. All other people on the premises must be seated if they are drinking alcohol.

For example, a venue with an indoor maximum capacity of 200 people can have up to a total of 100 people standing to either drink alcohol and/or dance in the indoor spaces, however, the other 100 people must be seated if they are drinking alcohol. If the same venue also has an outdoor maximum capacity of 300 people, it can have up to a total of 250 people standing to either drink alcohol and/or dance in the outdoor spaces, however the other 50 people must be seated if they are drinking alcohol. If a premises, according to its maximum allowable density, can have up to 80 persons in the indoor spaces of the premises, all of these patrons may stand to consume alcohol or dance.

These caps apply to the entire indoor and outdoor spaces of a premises, regardless of whether there are multiple discrete spaces, such as separate outdoor courtyards. If alcohol is sold and/or consumed at the premises, the density calculation for the outdoor spaces of the premises must only take into account the outdoor space of the premises that is used by patrons of the premises.

A Framework for COVID-19 Safe Events and Activities in Tasmania has been launched to support event organisers to plan and hold larger-scale COVID-19 safe events from 1 December 2020.

The Framework has been developed in consultation with the events, sports, arts and entertainment sectors and is consistent with World Health Organization, Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, and Public Health Services advice.

It will be a living document and will be reviewed over time as the rules for mass gatherings and events are updated to reflect the changing COVID-19 situation in Tasmania. The Framework will enable organisers to apply to hold an event under one of three levels.

For further information on the Events Framework click here.