“Freedom day” has arrived for NSW, with a tranche of COVID-19 restrictions to lift, edging the state another step closer to normal before the festive season.
The changes come into effect only days after the diagnosis of a Sydney hotel quarantine worker threatened the state’s progress as it notched up 26 days without a locally transmitted virus case.
But with authorities confirming the woman was infected at work and a testing blitz yet to yield another positive result, the NSW government has proceeded with the changed restrictions.
When announcing the plan on Wednesday, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said Monday would be “freedom day” in NSW and the eased limits would inject millions of dollars into the economy.
The rule of one person per four square metres will change to one person per two square metres, with gyms and nightclubs the only exceptions.
Caps on patron numbers at hospitality venues, weddings and funerals are scrapped, and standing in outdoor hospitality venues will be permitted.
Nightclubs can open, with up to 50 people on the dancefloor at a time.
Controlled events will be permitted to have up to 5000 people, while stadiums and outdoor theatres can operate at 100 per cent capacity.
Indoor stadiums and theatres can operate at 75 per cent capacity and choirs of up to 50 people will be permitted to perform indoors.
The government has also agreed to lift the limit on outdoor gatherings – including back yards – to 100 people, in time for Christmas celebrations.
Business advocates say it is a “Christmas present” for retail, hospitality and tourism.
Some recommendations – including social distancing, seeking testing when ill, using hand sanitiser and wearing masks in enclosed spaces – won’t change until the arrival of a vaccine.
However, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the changes with a warning that if a COVID-19 outbreak occurred in the coming months, restrictions would return.
The changes come into effect as a decision by the Western Australian government on its hard border with NSW is due.
Restrictions are due to lift on Tuesday, but was thrown into doubt after the diagnosis of a Sydney quarantine hotel cleaner.
Another incident, in which two overseas travellers were allowed to fly from Sydney to Melbourne on Saturday without quarantining, may also sway the Western Australian government’s decision.