The Latest COVID-19 Rules in New South Wales

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Sydney Australia

15 December 2021 marked the end of vaccination segregation in New South Wales, as both vaccinated and unvaccinated people were put on foot with one another in terms of ‘freedoms’ within the state.

For the first time since June 2021, differential treatment based on vaccination status was put to an end, with hopes the polarisation this has caused will gradually subside.

20 months of restrictions

Since March 2020, Australians have had their freedom and movement restricted in unprecedented ways as part of the government approach to pandemic management. 

But since 15 December, all people have been able to visit shops, cafes, hairdressers, pubs and clubs irrespective of their vaccination status, although it is important to remember that despite this being a Government directive, individual businesses can still refuse entry or service based on vaccination status. 

Masks and social distancing 

Masks are now only required on public transport, planes and at airports, although they are still strongly encouraged in settings where physical distancing cannot be achieved. 

Masks are required for unvaccinated front-of-house hospitality staff.

QR Check-ins 

QR Check-ins are also being scrapped across the majority of businesses in the state, although they remain mandatory for hospitals, aged and disability care facilities, gyms, places of worship, funerals or memorial services, personal services (including sex services), pubs, small bars and registered clubs, nightclubs, strip clubs, and indoor events and festivals which have more than 1000 people.

Exercise and recreation

  • Indoor swimming pools are open 
  • No person limit in gyms, indoor recreation and sporting facilities.
  • Community sports are permitted.

Shopping and personal services 

  • No person limit at hairdressers, spas, beauty therapists, tattoo parlours and nail salons. 
  • Sex services premises open.

Restaurants and hospitality

  • No person limit in hospitality venues.
  • Singing and dancing are permitted indoors and outdoors, no limits. 

Travel and transport

  • Travel between Greater Sydney and regional NSW is permitted. 
  • Carpooling is also permitted. 

Events and entertainment

  • No person limit for major recreation facilities including stadiums, theme parks and racecourses or entertainment facilities (including cinemas and theatres).
  • Music festivals can return with a limit of 20,000 patrons. 
  • Amusement centres and play centres are open to all.
  • Proof of vaccination will be needed for indoor music festivals with over 1,000 patrons, and entertainment cruises with more than 100 passengers. 
  • Weddings and funerals can proceed with no limits. 
  • No limits on private events, such as BBQs and picnics, outdoors  

Home entertaining 

  • There are no restrictions on visitors to a home. 

International traveller arriving in New South Wales 

  • International travellers who are fully vaccinated must self-isolate at their home or accommodation for 72 hours after arriving in NSW and until they receive a negative test result.
  • International travellers who are not fully vaccinated will need to hotel quarantine on arrival for 14 days. 

Rules may change 

It’s important to remember that these are the current New South Wales regulations, and the Government has openly stated that it will be continually monitoring recent outbreaks of Covid-19, including the new variant Omicron, and will ‘tweak’ the strategy as required. 

States and Territories have different rules

If you’re planning to travel interstate during the Christmas holidays, it’s wise to keep an eye on the destination State’s own rules and regulations as well as vaccination, isolation and quarantine arrangements. 

For example, new rules are coming into effect in Queensland this week. 

The Western Australian border remains shut until February. Tasmania is open, but there are conditions for entry. 

Fines still apply

Large fines still apply to those suspected of breaking the rules, and “not fully understanding the rules” is not a legal defence. 

One in ten reviews are successful

Recent statistics show that of all the Covid fines reviewed through Revenue New South Wales during July-October this year, only one in ten was successful. 

Pushing for 95%

New South Wales now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with 

93.2 percent of people fully vaccinated. 

Despite this, the state government is still pushing for 95% or higher double-vaccination targets, and encouraging parents to vaccinate their children, as well as double-vaccinated people to get their booster shots. 

There are a significant number of people who have had one dose of a Covid vaccination, but not a second, and it’s not entirely clear why there is a gap, which could signal some hesitancy to have the second jab and subsequent booster shot. 

Whatever the case, most people are just satisfied to finally hear rhetoric from the NSW State Government that suggests clearly that it is moving away from harsh lockdowns and curfews and other restrictions. Other countries, including some with high vaccination rates and are still experiencing outbreaks, have adopted strategies that entail “learning to live with” the virus, and now it is time for Australia to do the same.  

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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