Another “freedom day” is upon us with the NSW Government once again easing restrictions as the state nears the 95% double dose vaccination target.
The plan is in alignment with the roadmap laid out in November, that said the new, limited restrictions would come into play when either the state hits that target or on 15 December, whichever comes first.
Well, with 94.8% of people over 16 now vaccinated ahead of our somewhat dampened upcoming hot vax summer, the NSW government has shifted the focus to booster jabs while removing much of the few remaining restrictions still in place across the state.
Significantly, masks will now only be required in very few places, mainly public transport, while QR code check-ins are set to be phased out.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said the easing of restrictions was only possible because NSW is amongst the highest vaccinated populations in the world and the introduction of the booster shot program.
“We’re leading the world when it comes to vaccinations and that is a tremendous achievement we can all be proud of because it has allowed us to return to normal as quickly and safely as possible,” Perrottet said.
“The easing of these restrictions will allow people to get out and enjoy summer providing a boost for some of our hardest industries as we do everything we can to ensure we keep people safe as we learn to live with COVID.”
Here’s what’s changing.
Masks will only be required on public transport and planes, at airports, and for indoors front-of-house hospitality staff who are not fully vaccinated.
Previously, all indoors front-of-house hospitality staff regardless of vaccination status had to wear masks.
Masks are still “strongly encouraged” in settings where you cannot social distance.
New Venue Rules
NSW is scrapping COVID density limits across all venues and indoor locations. The two-person per square metre rule will no longer apply, meaning everything from clubs to hairdressers, cinemas, and supermarkets will be allowed to operate at full capacity once again.
COVID safety plans are also being phased out, with the new rules stating that the documents will now become optional for businesses to use and publish. These however will continue to be supported by SafeWork NSW.
QR check-ins will only be required at high-risk venues which include hospitals, aged and disability care facilities, gyms, places of worship, funerals or memorial services, personal services (e.g. hairdressers and beauty salons), limited hospitality settings (including pubs, small bars, registered clubs and nightclubs), and for indoor music festivals with more than 1,000 people.
Proof of vaccination will no longer be required to be shown upon entry for most activities however businesses will still be able to demand proof at their own discretion. Proof of vaccination will however still be required for indoor music festivals with more than 1,000 people.
Self-Isolating and Close Contacts
As Perrottet announced this morning, the requirements for isolation if you’re a close contact have changed.
A close contact, someone who has spent more than 15 minutes in close proximity with someone who has tested positive for COVID, will no longer have to isolate for seven days and will only have to await the results of a negative PCR test in isolation. Once those results come in, close contacts will be allowed to carry on as normal.
However, household contacts, meaning those who live with a positive case or have spent a lot of time in the house of someone who is positive, or have been to certain high-risk venues identified by NSW Health, will still need to isolate for seven days and get two PCR tests.
If you’re uncertain, it’s best to call NSW Health to clarify the best course of action.
NSW Booster Programme
To maintain high levels of immunity across the community, NSW Health is relying on its booster vaccination programme to keep immunity high.
Boosters are currently available to individuals aged 18 and older who received their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine five or more months ago.
Perrottet said with the removal of additional restrictions it was vital people booked in for their booster shot so that the state could continue to reopen safely.
“As we reopen in a measured and safe way people need to keep rolling up their sleeves to get their first and second jabs and their booster shots,” Perrottet said.
“We have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world but there will continue to be challenges thrown at us and everyone must follow the rules to help combat new variants and keep people out of hospital.”
Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said that COVID booster shots would be an important part of keeping the community safe through the summer and new year.
“If you had your second COVID vaccination jab five months or more ago, you should book a booster right now. Don’t’ forget if you haven’t been vaccinated at all go and get the jab to protect yourself and your family,” Hazzard said.
“By stepping up for a jab and a booster shot you help protect yourself and everyone around you, including the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, and young children who aren’t yet eligible for vaccinations.
“We will also need to continue to get tested if we develop COVID symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, and continue to follow public health advice.”
The NSW Government has said that it will continue to review the roadmap settings and make any appropriate changes based on current case numbers and vaccination rates.