Covid-19: Is it still OK to go for a walk?

5 Aug 2020

AUGUST 2020 UPDATE: 

The Victorian Government has increased restrictions on movement across metropolitan and regional Victoria in an effort to combat a worrying second wave of COVID-19 infections. As of Sunday August 2nd, people living in metropolitan Melbourne must now comply with Stage 4 restrictions, while all other Victorians (including residents of Mitchell Shire) in regional areas move to Stage 3 restrictions at 11.59pm Wednesday August 5th.

All Victorians, regardless of where they live, must now wear a mask when in public spaces if they are 12 years  or older (unless they have a special exemption). Information below is from the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services website.

Metropolitan Melbourne: Restrictions on exercise

  • You must not travel more than 5km from where you live to exercise.
  • You can exercise with one other person you live with or a friend or family member, as long as neither of you travel more than 5km from your home. Please use common sense and limit the number of people you see in person right now. It is safer to connect with friends and family using phone calls, social media and video calls. If you are exercising with someone else, you should keep 1.5 metres distance between you. Don’t hug, kiss or shake hands.
  • You must limit your exercise to once a day and for only one hour.
  • If you are a parent or guardian who is caring for a young child or someone who cannot be left unattended then they may accompany you.

  • ALSO there is now a metro-wide curfew. You cannot leave home between 8pm-5am unless you have to leave for reasons of authorised work, essential health, care or for safety reasons.


If you are not sure where you can walk (which parks and streets are within a 5km radius of your home) then key in your address at this handy interactive map provided by DHHS to help you plan your daily 1 hour of exercise or once-a-day shopping trip.

Regional Victoria: Restrictions on exercise

If you live in regional Victoria, including Mitchell Shire, there are only four reasons that you can leave home:

  • to shop for food and essential goods or services
  • to provide care, for compassionate reasons or to seek medical treatment
  • to exercise or for outdoor recreation with your household, or one other person
  • for work or study, if you can’t do it from home


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March 31 2020
What role will walking play during our battle to contain (and survive) the Coronavirus / Covid-19 pandemic, and can we do so with our physical and mental health intact?  

For the healthy (or asymptomatic), social distancing is now a necessary fact of life in Australia.* This means many popular physical activities such as visiting a gym or swimming pool, or playing a team sport, are out of bounds.  

Recreational activities such as walking, cycling and jogging are still possible, provided people adhere to current restrictions in Victoria and respect social distancing, defined as keeping at least 1.5 metres from others (excluding people from your family or household). No-one was harmed in the staging of the above photo!

Indeed many medical experts are stressing the importance of exercise, particularly walking, in the fight against Covid-19. However we're all facing a barrage of information, often conflicting - so it's not surprising people feel confused - even about the once simple daily task or pleasure of taking a walk. 

Recently we asked Victoria Walks’ Facebook followers how they were handling their new reality and whether they had managed to take a quiet walk over the weekend. The response was overwhelming, with  examples below showing many of us are continuing to find strength and solace in walking, especially in troubled times: 

Lisa: 'I did both Saturday and Sunday. I went early in the morning. It took my mind off everything and made me feel as though I could face whatever gets thrown our way.' 

Cath: 'Had a lovely walk around Blackburn Lake. Everyone observing social distancing, but still smiling and saying hello. Good to get out in nature and hear the birds.' 

Deb: This weekend I hike Dromana to Cape Schanck Lighthouse and then on to Gunnamatta. Taking in the Two Bays hike and the Coastal Walk. It felt great to hike with friends for what might have been the last time in a while ...'  

It is clear many people are adapting; seeking out quiet times or places to walk, or keeping the recommended 1.5m distance from those they pass. But politicians have also pointed to examples such as crowding at Bondi Beach in Sydney as a worrying sign the social distancing message is not sinking in to everyone, and that stronger measures may soon be needed to curtail the spread of Covid-19 in Australia. 

This weekend (March 2020) the Victorian government closed or restricted access to some popular public spaces including high-visitation national parks and walking trails. At Wilson’s Promontory camping and accommodation has been shut down at Tidal River ahead of the Easter school holidays and rangers are limiting the number of day visitor passes to reduce crowding on walk trails.

We can likely expect more spaces will be added to the list and closer to home, some Victoria Walks followers expressed concerns about the safety of walking in local parks.  

'I walked yesterday, but picked a park often empty. Just so many not taking social distancing seriously. I felt... uncomfortable. Is it the right thing? The wrong thing? Some countries are blockading their parks to keep people out and the last thing I want to be is part of the problem... Like any virus, people with [Covid-19] are contagious before they have any symptoms.' 

With the very real danger Covid-19 presents, it is vitally important people observe and respect social distancing if you do choose to walk. Don’t put your own health and wellbeing before the health of others who may be more vulnerable to the effects of this disease.   

Walk early in the morning if you live in a densely populated area. Choose parks and paths that are quiet. Take your own water bottle rather than using public water fountains and wash your hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds after using public toilets. Keep at least 1.5m from those you pass. 

But also importantly, wave or smile to those who you do pass. Ask after the health and wellbeing of your neighbours. Seek to help and cheer others in any way that you can. Let’s spatially isolate, not socially isolate

For the time being Victoria Walks will continue to share ideas for places to walk and to remind Victorians of the benefits of doing so. Yet we’re also aware the ground may continue to shift beneath our feet.

NOTE ON VULNERABLE WALKERS: 
Our recent post about Jean, 81 sparked some great conversation on Facebook and in The Age about the need for younger, more able people to make space for those more succeptible to both Covid-19, and to injuries as a result of falls on the street or paths and trails. 

We urge you to keep up-to-date with official information from: 

 
* People who are ill or at heightened risk of being infected with Covid-19 because of overseas travel or exposure to someone who has tested postive, must self-isolate (not leave home). See the Victorian Department of Health Covid-19 page for more information on who should self-isolate and what this means.