Across the past few months, as NSW has slowly reopened off the back of its most recent lockdown, rules around COVID-19 restrictions have changed regularly. Now, as we move into the holiday period with Omicron cases causing a serious uptick in cases, there’s a lot of confusion (and nervousness) surrounding where we sit with COVID-safe practices.
The biggest piece of news in the world of COVID right now is that Omicron is spreading at an unprecedented rate, and safety measures will need to be reconsidered appropriately.
As the ABC has reported, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently gave a statement on the changes, sharing that “Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems”.
“I need to be very clear: vaccines alone will not get any country out of this crisis.
“It’s not vaccines instead of masks. It’s not vaccines instead of distancing. It’s not vaccines instead of ventilation or hand hygiene. Do it all. Do it consistently. Do it well.”
With all that in mind, here are the latest updates from NSW restrictions:
What COVID restrictions are in place for NSW right now?
As case numbers have surged in NSW due to the Omicron outbreak, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has reintroduced some COVID restrictions ahead of Christmas.
“We are encouraging people, particuarly over the holiday peiod, if you can work from home, please work from home,” Mr Perrottet said in a statement.
“We do want to limit mobility, just as we get through this period of time and particularly in relation to ensuring that our health workers are able to be on the job and provide that care and support to those who are unwell.”
As of December 23, 2021, these are the COVID-19 restrictions in place across NSW:
- Masks will once again be mandatory indoors from midnight Thursday 23rd December. This mandate will be in place until 27 January;
- Indoor hospitality venues will also move back to the two square metre rule from 27 December to 27 January;
- QR check-ins will only be required at high-risk venues including hospitals, aged and disability care facilities, gyms, places of worship, funerals or memorial services, business premises for personal services (e.g. hairdressers, salons and spas), pubs, small bars, registered clubs, nightclubs, and for indoor music festivals with more than 1,000 people;
- Proof of vaccination only required for indoor music festivals with more than 1,000 people and cruises with more than 100 passengers;
- Businesses can still require proof of vaccination at their own discretion;
- COVID safety plans will be optional for businesses and will be supported by SafeWork NSW.
One of the key messages coming from the NSW government update is that boosters are being strongly encouraged for those who are eligible.
More than 93 per cent of people aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated in NSW and booster shots are eligible for those who received their second jab at least five months ago.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard shared that NSW residents should “Check your eligibility, get online, make the booking and you will be doing your bit to keep you, your family and the community safe”.
It’s also worth noting that per reports from the ABC, Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant is still strongly encouraging people to wear masks while indoors.
Rules around isolating right now
The NSW government has also released updates regarding isolation requirements and penalties for non-compliance.
Anyone who does not follow rules regarding isolation, testing and quarantine faces fines of up to $5,000 and corporations are looking at a sting of up to $10,000.
However, fully vaccinated close contacts now only need to isolate until they receive a negative PCR test result. Household close contacts or those specified as higher risk by NSW Health will be required to isolate for seven days, along with having to get a PCR test.
Additionally, Perrottet announced that the definition of ‘close contact’ would change from December 15, with more of a focus placed on people who live with someone who has tested positive for COVID, the ABC reports.
The last update in this space is that the Commonwealth Government has announced its plan to expand the vaccination program to include children ages between 5 and 11 as of January 10, 2022. This is off the back of updated advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
We’ll continue to keep you posted on any changes regarding NSW COVID-19 restrictions as they roll out. You can continue reading on the NSW government website here.
This article has been updated with additional details on NSW COVID restrictions since publish date.