Restrictions ease, virus cases rise in NSW

Unvaccinated people are now free to shop and socialise in NSW and travellers arriving from southern African countries no longer have to quarantine.

The NSW government is honouring its pledge to significantly ease COVID-19 restrictions despite a sharp rise in COVID-19 case numbers amid super-spreading events in the festive season.

For the first time in three months, the same set of rules now applies to the vaccinated and the unvaccinated in NSW.


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QR code check-ins will be scaled back and masks are only required only in high-risk settings like public transport and planes.

There’s no cap on visitors in homes, hospitality venues, or on numbers at outdoor public gatherings.

Business NSW says dropping the QR check-in requirement to enter shops, and ditching the requirement for customers to show their vaccination status, will give business owners a much-needed boost in the countdown to Christmas.

“This is the early Christmas present business owners and their employees have been waiting for,” Business NSW Chief Executive Daniel Hunter said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, NSW Health says fully-vaccinated arrivals from eight southern African countries of concern where the Omicron variant of COVID-19 emerged will no longer have to enter 14 days hotel quarantine, bringing all international arrivals under the same requirements.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said all fully-vaccinated international arrivals must self-isolate for 72-hours and have a negative result within the first 24 hours of arrival and avoid high-risk settings for a week.

The lifting of restrictions – long-planned for December 15 – comes just as case numbers spike to a two-month high.

Some 804 people tested positive for COVID-19 in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday and infection numbers have quadrupled in the past two weeks.

They included 224 people in Newcastle, where super-spreading events at a nightclub and a pub have been identified.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 200 out of 680 revellers who were at the Argyle House nightclub on the night of December 8 had tested positive for the virus.

Of the new cases, 21 had the Omicron variant taking the total cases of the new strain to 85.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Tuesday urged people to get their booster shot as soon as they are eligible.

The current advice from the federal government’s advisory group on vaccinations is that Australians can get a third jab five months after their second.

But Mr Hazzard told Sydney radio 2GB he would like to see that brought forward to four months or even sooner because protection drops off “fairly dramatically” after that period.

Some 94.8 per cent of eligible NSW adults have received at least one jab, with 93.2 per cent fully vaccinated.

Mr Hazzard urged those who haven’t been vaccinated and are able to do so to reconsider.

© AAP 2021