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A Guide to Outdoor Activities During Coronavirus Outbreak

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published March 26th 2020
There are many safe outdoor activities despite Coronavirus
There is a lot of confusion and worry around Coronavirus. There are still many people completely confused about why closures and lockdowns are occurring, and others who think the only way to stay safe is to hide under the bed covers. The reality is a little different and there is a lot we can do and still keep ourselves and the community safe.

This person and their dog are at no risk of getting or spreading Coronavirus is they maintain their social distance
This person and their dog are at no risk of getting or spreading Coronavirus is they maintain their social distance


Make sure you are informed

Every article that I have written about the transmission and nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is causing COVID-19, which is the name of the Coronavirus disease 2019, which is commonly referred to as Coronavirus, is inline with government, health authorities and medical guidelines. On WeekendNotes, I have more opportunity to address the nuance of many issues that are not properly covered in mainstream news, especially TV news shows (or random posts on Facebook).

Australia is different than Europe and Asia

We first need to realise that Australian cities are generally suburban environments. You can walk around them all day without having to pass close to anyone. This is very different from most Asian and European cities where strict lockdowns have occurred. Of course, you can't compare the outer suburbs with inner cities of Australia, where people live in apartments next to office buildings and you will be exposed to lots of people whenever you go out.

Even small asian cities are full of apartments and crowds, making it difficult to go out without exposure to disease
Even small asian cities are full of apartments and crowds, making it difficult to go out without exposure to disease


Also, most people in Australia have cars, which means private isolated transportation is available for people to move around, whether from home to work or a park. People without cars either need to stay close to home or use public transportation, with the latter being more problematic than many outdoor destinations.

At the time of writing this, lockdowns are not in place in Australia. Should they occur, they are most likely to be very different from those that are occurring in the crowded cities elsewhere in the world. That is not to say that inner cities might be locked down, but it will mostly be a focus on further closing public places.

You have to keep up-to-date with rules, guidelines and other information

What is written here can be quickly out of date. You are the reader and member of the Australian community must take responsibility to understand the rules. For example, Victoria has closed most campsites, while Western Australia has kept them open while doing their best to enforce safe practices.

Governments need to keep their message simple for the mass media. As a result, a lot of their information is broad-based and often this leads to some confusion about what is safe or not safe. People who have lost their jobs because of a restaurant and other venue closures often don't understand why shops and supermarkets are still open. This actually has to do with a combination of risk vs benefits, social distancing possibilities and other factors that are difficult to describe easily.

Some people should definitely stay home

If you are ordered into isolation, then you should be staying home. If you have to go out for any reason, such as walking your dog if you live in an apartment, or taking out the rubbish when you are in an apartment or townhouse complex, wear a mask. Based on the information I have read, people in isolation without symptoms are allowed to walk their dogs. But they shouldn't be going to the shops or visiting people.

If you have any symptoms that might be the disease, such as shortness of breath, fever, cough, runny nose, sneezing etc, or a combination of those, then definitely stay at home and avoid other people. Yes, often it is hard to get testing with minor symptoms, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

At risk people are also a problem. This includes elderly people and others with pre-existing conditions. If you are a vulnerable person, it is best to stay at home.

So it is safe to do a lot of outdoor activities

There is a big difference between going out to an isolated beach, quiet park, or national park, then it is going to a busy and crowded area. Governments are angry that people went to Bondi Beach and on the Gold Coast, there were lots of beachgoers spreading the disease.

Essentially there are no health guidelines or warnings telling us to not go out to places where we are by ourselves. Going for a walk in a park or having a picnic with your family by a beach where there are few people, is not a problem. What they don't want you to do is go with many friends to join crowds in public places.

It is all about social distancing

The concept is simple but many people are still confused about this. It is about social distancing. Which includes 3 factors, physical distance, type of contact and time. For example, spending an hour in a crowded bar, rubbing up against strangers is a bad thing. Waving to your neighbour when you walk past is extremely low risk. In fact, stopping to say hello, standing 1.5 metres apart, and talking for a few minutes is also low risk.

Passing by a fellow cyclist is quick and holds a very low risk of disease transmission
Passing by a fellow cyclist is quick and holds a very low risk of disease transmission


This means, going for a walk around your suburb, swimming at a beach when no one else is around, hiking in the mountains, staying in a private cabin with just your family, or camping with your own shower and chemical toilet, all meet social distancing rules inline with government recommendations and health guidelines.

So yes, it is okay to go for a run, take your dog for a walk or just sit in a park reading. Don't use public drink fountains, toilets or hug every stranger that you meet. Wash your hands before you go, wash them when you return home.

It is also about tracking cases

One of the issues is about tracking cases. Community transmission is where people get the disease from an unknown source or when people expose others to the disease and they can't be tracked. This means that some social contact is fine. It is not overly recommended, but it is something that people can do.

Some social contact means small groups of people on rare occasions. As already said, house, park or beach parties are out. So is visiting different people every day. Remember the idea is to socialise only with the people you currently live with.

Activities that should stop

So we know that going to the beach with 20 friends is a bad idea, and so is having a house party with lots of strangers. Even a dinner party is a bad idea. You should avoid doing these things.

Parks aren't bad places, but crowds in parks are very bad
Parks aren't bad places, but crowds in parks are very bad


Public transportation is a bad idea as well. If you don't have a car, then heading off out of walking or cycling distance shouldn't be done.

Supermarkets are also a higher risk area. But remember there is always a trade off between risk and benefit. We need food so supermarkets are staying open. This is also why food markets are usually allowed to stay open, but other markets are closed.

Lots of people still need to go to work. But if you can work from home, then you should do that instead. If you can have meetings on the phone or via video chat, do that rather than meet in person.

There are benefits to getting out and about

There are many benefits to getting out of the house in a safe way. During lockdowns, there is an increase in domestic violence and abuse. Sometimes when one person goes out for a safe walk, they will be able to cool down after an argument.

Also, in many crowded share houses or family homes, going out for a bit is needed for both physical and mental health. We can do this when it is safe, and that means understanding how diseases are transmitted.

This could be for months

In theory, we can have a lockdown for a couple of months. But enforcing this in Australia where most people have their own homes, will be very hard. Wuhan had to actually lock everyone in their apartments for 2 weeks to stop the spread of disease. Other cities in China were able to achieve the same results while still allowing people out to shop.

The thing is, people will still need to visit supermarkets. They will also do things that they should, such as visit their friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, ask for help from a friend to fix things in their home and do other things that keep the disease in the community. Walking in the park is not going to an issue here, but other activities.

The government is closing high-risk locations

The government is closing all high-risk locations. Bars and restaurants are closed, but shops are still open, popular beaches are shut, but you are free to visit parks. Campsites are a little more controversial because of a complex set of issues associated with these, but isolated campsites are low risk, which is where there are differences inclosures around the country.

Beaches aren't bad, crowds on beaches are
Beaches aren't bad, crowds on beaches are


The best way to understand this is the reason why takeaway and home delivery is still allowed, while restaurants are closed. This is because sitting in a restaurant with strangers is a high risk, but walking up to the shop, buying takeaway, and going home or enjoying in a park, is low risk.

Overall

If you get in your car with your family and head to a picnic area in the countryside, don't use the toilets or drink fountains, don't get close to people, you have exposed yourself to a nearly 0% chance of getting Coronavirus. If you walk in a quiet park, keep your distance from others, don't use drink fountains, toilets or public gym equipment, it is the same. When we understand the risk factors and manage them, the risk is very low.

A couple walking on a lonely beach is at no risk from the beach, but if they don't live together, they are a risk to each other
A couple walking on a lonely beach is at no risk from the beach, but if they don't live together, they are a risk to each other


I hope that this any my other articles help people remain informed. Yes, some of this information will change with updates, but sensible and responsible outdoor activity is still possible, while other activities by people who don't care about Coronavirus transmission are not. When you understand this, you can choose activities that are the lowest risk and do them in the safest way possible.
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Why? There are many safe outdoor activities despite Coronavirus
Where: A place far from the maddening/coughing crowd
Your Comment
Are garage sales allowed?
by Chris (score: 0|2) 71 days ago
Thanks much for this. My husband and I travelled from sydney this weekend to the blue mountains to do a bushwalk. There was hardly anyone around and the trail was very quiet. One lady who we passed found out we were from Sydney and was so rude and told us we shouldn't be travelling. Obviously living in the inner west it is impossible to find quiet walking trails especially as most of the national parks around the area are closed. This article makes me feel a lot better.
by Melan (score: 0|4) 62 days ago
If you are on compulsory self isolation walking your dog is not allowed - I thought this too but have since confirmed with the government covid19 hotline it is not allowed. You need to rely on others to do this for you.
by info (score: 0|4) 70 days ago
This article is flawed. In isolation - DO NOT LEAVE HOME FULL STOP.
Not in isolation the law states clearly
STAY HOME,
DO NOT VISIT A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER unless you can prove you are a medical /support carer not a grandparent childminding.
IT IS AGAINST LAW TO DRIVE UNLESS ESSENTIAL for work, to medical appointments (most online) and parks are OFF LIMITS.
DONT BE SELFISH. We are in this together.
Not sure what state writer is from, and appreciate his efforts in trying to clarify, but easily misinterpreted because states are different.
Maybe have opening out that this is what was at this time but could have changed now. Check govts both fed and state sites before doing any of below.
Appreciated thoughtfulness to writer trying to give us some normality, Caps are not aimed at writer but to make point to people out there who don’t understand, and are selfishly flaunting system. Thanks writer for trying.
by belin (score: 0|6) 59 days ago
The information about camping is Wrong. It is not allowed anywhere except in your own back yard.
by pratt (score: 0|4) 70 days ago
Your article is a good one, however I do not agree with people visiting each other as you say they should - boyfriend, girl friend. You say they should .... Even though SA not yet in lock down we are asked to stay home. We need to sacrific our freedom for the commin good, thise who are particularly at risk and the health system. Give an inch and people take a mile. We do not know when someone is infectious.
by rgree (score: 1|22) 70 days ago
Not everyone can avoid public transport. I live in an outer suburb without a car and half hour walk to nearest food shops. Easy to walk there but not so much to carry heavy shopping bags or wheel my trolley home so I take the bus. I also get some human contact from my friendly bus drivers! ๐Ÿ˜Š I also take a bus or ferry to get to the nearest National Park to have an appropriately solitary bushwalk...๐ŸŒณ
by annab (score: 1|17) 71 days ago
Hi Roy. I think your statement re what you have written can be quickly outdated should be at top of article (in bold) & a publication date should also be provided.
As most of us know as of 30 March new rules are in force that include no more that 2 people together outdoors (unless immediate family or a household).
In Victoria there is now huge fines if you don't abide by the new 2 person rule.
Your articles have been great, but writing one that could be read as suggestions of what you can still do is possibly not suitable.
Or perhaps write something "if you happen to be at..." rather than "if you get in your car & go to a picnic ground" which reads like a suggestion & ok (It's not & many public parks/reserves/etc & campgrounds are closed).
Please keep writing your great & informative articles but as there's never a date of publication on Weekend Notes articles & what we required to do or not becomes stricter every few days, and there's so much mis-information, an article like this that can be quickly out of date should have disclaimers clearly at start & links to Government & Health Dept website where latest info is provided
by cityb (score: 1|41) 69 days ago
Perfect comments - well done !!
by petr (score: 0|2) 70 days ago
Using your car means you will need to get fuel which increases contact. Maybe better to stick with walking and cycling near home.
by friendly (score: 0|2) 70 days ago
The following statement may not be correct. Maybe 'should' is meant to be 'shouldn't'?

'They will also do things that they should, such as visit their friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, ask for help from a friend to fix things in their home and do other things that keep the disease in the community. Walking in the park is not going to an issue here, but other activities.'
by Sagasu (score: 0|6) 64 days ago
Please do not take Roy's advice as being completely accurate. The government advice is really, really, simple: if it isn't essential, don't do it. Don't go camping. Don't visit your friends. Don't even get together with your friends in a park. This is not just about staying safe yourself, it's about not spreading the virus accidentally from one location to another. With an incubation period of 8 days most of us will have no idea we have it and absolutely should not get together with friends/family or visit locations such as camping spots where others may pick it up and take it back to their home location. Sure we'll go stir crazy if we don't get some air, so a walk is fine (provided you observe minimum 1.5 m distances from others), but this article goes too far. For much, much better coverage visit the ABC coronavirus blog which has a great ongoing Q&A for issues such as those raised in this article
by etsy (score: 0|4) 70 days ago
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