On January 7, NSW premier Dominic Perrottet announced the reintroduction of a range of health measures to address the huge surge in cases caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19. Here's everything you need to know about the rules that come into effect from January 7.
Masks are mandatory in all indoor public settings
This includes in common areas of apartment buildings, in shops and supermarkets, at gyms and sports facilities if it's practical to do so and whenever you are not eating or drinking while in hospitality venues.
Dancing and singing is prohibited in hospitality venues
This ban will last until January 27. However, dancing and singing will still be permitted at weddings, fitness classes and theatrical performances. While those activities are not allowed in venues like nightclubs, there is no formal order for those venues to close.
All patrons must use QR codes to check-in at public businesses
As has previously been the case in NSW, check-ins must be made via the Service NSW app, however, it is no longer necessary to also show proof of vaccination when entering a business. QR code check-ins, which were initially retired on December 15, are a vital tool for contact tracing.
Wherever possible, work from home
Employers will be required to allow their staff to work from home if it is practical to do so until further notice. There is currently no end date announced for WFH orders.
Density limits at hospo venues will be capped as per the two-square-meter rule
From December 27 until January 27, all patrons must be allotted a maximum of two square meters of space in hospo settings to ensure adequate social distancing is possible.
It is "strongly recommended" that people avoid mingling in hospitality settings
Mingling with other people in hospitality venues will not be permitted. It is not specifically banned, but it is strongly recommended that singing and dancing in public indoor settings be avoided.
You should only go for a PCR test if you are symptomatic or a close household contact. Otherwise, use a rapid test (RAT)
A spike in the number of people seeking a PCR test in recent days has led to major backlogs and days-long waits for results. If you receive a 'ping' via the Service NSW app alerting you that you have attended an exposure site, you should take a self-administered rapid antigen test, which can be currently purchased at pharmacies and supermarkets.
If your RAT is positive, you will need to register your diagnosis with NSW Health
From the week commencing January 10, people who are self-diagnosed as positive, using a RAT test, will need to register their results with the state's health service. The online portal to do this is not yet live, but should come online in the coming days.
You can still have visitors at your home, but think about going outside
As yet, no restrictions have been made on the number of people who can gather in a private residence, however, chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said that people should limit their social interactions and wherever possible, meet outside.
Get your booster dose
Two doses of a vaccine provide excellent protection against the Delta variant, but very little protection against the Omicron variant. Immunity is boosted significantly with a thrid 'booster' shot of a vaccine, and everyone in Australia is eligible for a third dose four months after their second jab.
Why are these measures being reintroduced?
The Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa in mid-November, is significantly more transmissible than any other previously identified strain. It is more airborne and can survive in the air for much longer, meaning that it is easily spread in settings like restaurants, bars and nightclubs or in crowded shops. Early data suggests that Omicron does cause less severe illness compared to the Delta variant, with the likelihood of hospitalisation from Omicron reduced by 60 to 80 per cent. However, due to the huge number daily cases, the sheer volume of sick people could still overwhelm the public health infrastructure. Omicron is now the dominant strain in NSW, with more than 80 per cent of new cases now attributed to the new variant, and vaccination protection from two doses is greatly reduced. A third dose – also known as a booster shot – provides substantially increased protection, however, you will only be eligible for your booster four months after your second dose.