The NSW government has announced that it will further repeal some of the last few remaining COVID restrictions in place over the coming weeks and days.
With case numbers on the decline, although still high, government officials have said that the worst of the latest Omicron wave is over and that now is the time to wind restrictions back.
As announced on Wednesday, isolation rules for close contacts will be overhauled and virtually done away with, however, there are a raft of new measures that the government also hopes to implement soon.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the lifting of isolation rules for close contacts was a common-sense change that would allow the state to “continue to move forward out of the pandemic”.
“These isolation rules have been necessary but thanks to our strong vaccination rates, we can make the changes,” Perrottet said.
“This will provide immediate relief for so many workforces and businesses who have been hit hard by labour shortages as people are forced to isolate because they are a household contact.
“As the pandemic has evolved so has our response and this is another example where we have been able to make necessary changes safely and in a measured way.”
Health Minister Brad Hazzard has said that individuals still needed to exercise caution to protect vulnerable members of the community.
“We are still in a pandemic and the basic rules of hand hygiene, wearing a mask when you cannot socially distance and staying at home if you have symptoms still apply,” he said.
However, epidemiologists are unconvinced that the repeal of restrictions — right as we’re about to head into winter and with flu cases on the rise as well — is a great idea, or that it sends the best message.
University of Melbourne epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baxter has said that a loosening of restrictions would lead to a plateauing of case numbers, “a lot of hospitalisation, a significant amount of death and a lot of long Covid.”
Others, however, have said that it’s not unreasonable to repeal restrictions now and that sustainable virus management will have to increasingly become part of the conversation.
What Are The New COVID Restrictions in NSW?
From 6pm Friday, April 22:
- Close contacts will no longer need to isolate. They will however need to take a rapid antigen test daily, avoid sensitive areas like aged care homes, work from home when practical, and wear a mask in indoor settings.
- Vaccine requirements for key workforces will lift. This means mandatory vaccination will no longer be required for certain industries, however, authority over these decisions will be given over to occupational health and safety. Aged care and disability workers will still need to be vaccinated.
From April 30:
- Unvaccinated international arrivals will no longer need to undergo hotel quarantine. Unvaccinated travellers will be treated the same as vaccinated ones, with the need to take a COVID test within 24 hours of arrival still in effect.
- Public transport capacity caps will be lifted.
The government has said that face mask requirements for public transport, airports, and cruise terminals will remain in place.
They have also said that they expect to finalise the regulations for the return to school in the coming days.