Almost all remaining restrictions have lifted in NSW as of December 15. Unvaccinated people now have the same access to businesses and venues as vaccinated people, and density limits, mask-wearing and QR code check-ins are no longer mandatory at most places. (We've broken down the changes over here.)
With all that said, the Omicron varient has brought with it a spike in cases around Sydney and NSW, and health officials are advising us to exercise caution to keep ourselves and the community safe. Being double-dosed is not a fail-safe for protection against Covid (although it does drastically reduce your chances and the severity of the illness) and you are still able to catch the new variant if you've previously come down with Covid. Here are some useful rules to follow to stay safe during your hot vax summer.
Stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people
This applies even if they are your friends, even if you’re in that person's house or an apartment, even if you’re exercising together, and even if everyone you’re with is symptom-free. The only exceptions are members of your household or your exclusive partner. Research has shown that physical contact is the primary method of transmission, so hugs, handshakes and high-fives are on hiatus until further notice.
Wash your hands as regularly as possible
The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 can survive on certain surfaces for up to five days – including on your skin. The most effective way to disinfect your hands is to thoroughly wash them for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. If you are out and about, hand san is also a very effective stopgap.
Wear a mask
Masks are strongly encouraged in settings where you cannot socially distance. Masks are no longer mandatory in many areas, except for: at a public transport waiting area, while on public transport, at airports and on aircraft in NSW, and for indoors front-of-house hospitality staff who are not fully vaccinated. Here's our guide on how to wear a mask correctly.
Don't touch your face when you’re outside your home
You might well be shocked by the amount of time our mitts spend touching our mugs. Throughout the day, we might absentmindedly scratch our chins and bite our fingernails. We might rub an eye or, if no one’s looking, give our nose a cheeky pick. This all adds up to a lot of facetime for whatever nasties may be on your hands, so avoiding that unconscious touching is extremely important.
If you need to cough or sneeze, give it the elbow
Most of us are well mannered enough to cover our mouths when we need to clear our throat, but whereas it was once a sign of good manners to shield your mouth with your hands, the crook of your elbow is now the best place to unleash a cough or sneeze. This way, you won’t only be protecting those around if you’re infected, you’ll also be protecting yourself from whatever might already be on your hands.
If you have even the slightest of symptoms, get tested
Our society has conditioned us to not make a fuss and just get on with it when we’re a bit under the weather. Those days are gone. If you have even a slight cough, a bit of a runny nose or a touch of joint pain, or even if you’re just feeling a little more tired than usual, you need to get tested for Covid-19 immediately. In the majority of people, symptoms can be extremely mild, and even asymptomatic cases are still capable of passing the infection on. There are testing centres across the city and results will generally arrive within 24 hours by text. You can now also purchase approved rapid antigen test kits from supermarkets and chemists. Either way, positive or negative, you’ll know exactly what to do regarding isolating and seeking further treatment.
Be mindful of your mental health
There are many reasons why the pandemic has put an incredible strain on our mental wellbeing. From the existential anxiety of being surrounded by an outbreak, to the stress of losing a livelihood, to the insidious impact of isolation, there are myriad ways our mental health can be affected. Be on the lookout for the symptoms of depression and anxiety in yourself and those around you, and don't be afraid to ask for help.