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June 13 rules update
Photograph: Anna Kucera/Time Out

What you can and cannot do in Sydney

As restrictions change in the coming weeks and months, we'll keep you up to date with the latest developments

By Alannah Maher and Maxim Boon

Updated August 4, 2020

Many of the social restrictions introduced in NSW in mid-March have been significantly eased, but as the state continues to record low but consistent community transmission, it's more important than ever that Sydneysiders follow the rules and physical distancing guidelines in place currently.

From July 1, the capacity of many businesses, including restaurants, pubs and bars, substantially increased. On July 24, some of these restrictions were rolled back again to place a lower cap on group bookings and reduce the number of people allowed in larger venues.
 If you’re confused about the current restrictions in our state, you’re not alone – so we’ve summed up the main things Sydneysiders want to know.

For more up to date information on current regulations, you can also visit

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How long will this last?

While there is no concrete timeline in NSW or anywhere in the world, certain protocols such as physical distancing may be in place for several more months to come. Some health experts have said that, until a vaccine or other cure can be found, we will have to live with this virus.

Should I wear a mask?

As of August 2, the NSW government has strongly recommended that masks be worn in NSW in four specific situations: if you are in an enclosed or indoor space where social distancing isn’t possible, such as at the supermarket or in similar retail spaces and on public transport; if you have a customer-facing job that requires prolonged interaction with the public; if you are attending a place of worship; and if you are in a “hot spot” area where community transmission has been detected. Mask-wearing is not compulsory in NSW, however this recommendation is the strongest call yet for doing so. 

Can I have friends or family over?

You're allowed to welcome up to 20 people to your home for the purposes of socialising, though NSW Health has recommended that less than 10 people is advisable. You should still be following physical distancing protocols when you call in on your mates. If you are at all symptomatic – even the slightest of sniffles, a scratchy throat or a little more fatigued than usual – you should get tested. 

Can I go to a restaurant or café?

Yes. The number of people permitted in a venue will be determined by the four-square-metre rule, which means that the upper limit of a venue's capacity is no longer arbitrary but rather determined by its size. However, as of July 17, venues are only allowed to have a maximum of 300 people in total, no matter their size. Group bookings are capped at 10 people per table or per booking. 

What about pubs and bars?

Pubs, gaming venues, bars and RSLs are allowed to serve customers as long as they are abiding by the four-square-metre rule. This has been extendeed to cellar doors, breweries and distilleries. However, all guests must be seated to be served – propping up at the bar remains off-limits.

Can I use public transport?

You can, but the NSW government is urging people to avoid trains and buses at peak times, before 10am and after 2pm. Ferries and the light rail network are less busy, but if you can avoid using public transport, you should. An increase in car traffic is expected as more workplaces begin to reopen, and a huge overflow car park has now been set up in Moore Park to cope with the influx, with a shuttle bus service to the city. We'd encourage you to use pedal power for your commute: cycling is not only a great form of exercise, but it's also better for the environment.

When can I go to the footy?

NSW has adopted the federal recommendations regarding outdoor sporting venues with a capacity equal to or less than 40,000 people. These venues are allowed to host crowds at a maximum occupancy of 25 per cent their normal capacity, or 10,000 people, whichever is lesser. 

When can I see a concert again?

The rules regarding outdoor cultural and sporting venues opening back up at reduced capacity from July 1 are paving the way for the return of stadium concerts. However with travel restrictions, don't hold your breath for international acts. Read more about it over here.

Can I visit art galleries and museums?

Museums and galleries have now been reopened to the public. There are limits on visitor numbers to be determined by venues and some are introducing pre-booked entry or allowing visitors on a first come, first served basis. We're keeping you updated with a rolling list of opening dates and info about cultural venues.

Can I go to the zoo?

Zoos, aquariums and animal parks were permitted to reopen from June 1. There are still strict protocols in place and like most attractions you'll likely need to book ahead. You can check rules of Sydney attractions over here.

Can I get a haircut or visit my beauty therapist?

You betcha. Beauty salons were added to the list of venues able to reopen from June 1. There are regulations in place – don't expect to leaf through the latest glossy gossy magazine in the foyer – which we've covered over here. From June 13, massage parlours, spas and saunas also reopened, with a limit of 10 patrons at any one time.

Can I work out?

Fear not, all you swole folk chomping at the bit to recoup your mad gains. From June 13, gyms, yoga studios, dance studios, indoor pools and community centres were allowed to reopen. Large venues are allowed a maximum of 100 patrons at a time, and individual classes are capped at 10 participants. Outdoor gym facilities reopened May 15 (although they must be used with caution) and outdoor boot camps are allowed with a maximum of 10 people to a group presently.

Can I travel around regional NSW and Australia?

In great news for regional tourism, which has also had the devastating impact of last summer's bushfire crisis to contend with, you can now travel and holiday anywhere in NSW.  However, the state's borders are currently closed with Victoria. From Saturday, August 1, Queensland declared Greater Sydney a hotspot, and will not allow any visitors to enter the state. Check the NSW government website for the latest travel advice. 

Are national parks open?

They sure are, and many of their campgrounds are also open to visitors. There are still some occupancy restrictions and some facilities at certain parks are unavailable, so we suggest checking ahead on the parks service website before you travel.

Can I have a party?

You can have up to 20 people in your home, with the same number allowed to gather in outdoor spaces, including public parks and beaches. However, everyone will still need to follow physical distancing rules – so no matter how good it is to hang with your mates, hugs, handshakes and high-fives remain on hiatus.

Can I bring my reusable coffee cup to a café?

A new contact-free initiative from Responsible Cafés could see many coffee shops allowing personal reusable takeaway cups allowed back in, however this is up to individual cafés. Read more about it here.

Can I go for a swim?

Outdoor swimming pools have technically been allowed to reopen since May 15, but several run by City of Sydney have remained closed as local authorities wait for the NSW government to issue health orders about their safe operation. It's unclear when this will happen. Indoor pools have also been allowed to reopen from June 13, but they are subject to the same red-tape, so we recommend phoning ahead before your trip to the local pool. Beaches and ocean pools are open for exercise purposes, including swimming, surfing and paddleboarding, as well as general recreation as long as your group does not exceed ten people.

Can I go to the library?

Good news book worms, libraries are now open. Limitations on visitor numbers will be in place, and many are still operating only as 'click and collect' facilities. You should check in with your local library branch to see how they’re handling this. In the meantime, there are thousands of e-books available to download from City of Sydney libraries.

Can I hang out in a park?

You sure can. You can currently leave your house for non-essential reasons, such as hanging out at the park, either by yourself or with up to 19 other people. You will, however, need to strictly adhere to physical distancing rules while you're there, and enhanced hand hygiene is advised, so don't forget to take some hand san with you.

Can I let the kids loose on the playground?

In news that is sure to delight anyone cooped up with tiny humans, public playgrounds have opened again. Physical distancing and hygiene should be practised (as best as you can manage that with tots).

What’s the go with weddings and funerals?

You're allowed up to 150 guests at a wedding ceremony (inclusive of the happy couple), however, wedding receptions will still need to abide by rules governing hospitality venues. If the wedding takes place in a place fo worship, guests will be capped at 100. Funerals are allowed a maximum of 100 mourners. And yeah, you've guessed it, everyone in attendance must still need to observe social distancing and enhanced hygiene protocols. It might feel almost cruel not to offer a hug or handshake at these special or sombre occasions, but contact is the primary means of transmission and weddings and funerals have produced infection clusters in the past in NSW.

Can I go back to the office?

The current advice is that if you can, you should continue to work from home. However, this is just a recommendation and some businesses have begun to reopen offices. Check out the state government's work safe website to see if your workplace has all the necessary hygiene and sanitation measures in place.

Can I travel overseas?

All international travel, with very few exceptions, has been banned and is not likely to resume until next year, and is not likely to return to normal until 2023. Fines and legal proceedings for those found breaking travel restrictions remain in effect.

Can I go shopping?

You can now shop to your heart's content. However, there are limits on the number of people allowed in a shop at any one time and you may be asked to submit for a temperature check or to leave your contact information before entering.

Can I, or should I, get tested?

In an effort to clamp down on community transmission, NSW Health has announced that anyone with the slightest flu-like symptoms should get tested. If you work with vulnerable people, for example, in a nursing home, boarding school, or any other kind of residential facility, and you experience any respiratory symptoms, no matter how mild, you must be tested. The state is aiming to conduct 10,000 tests a day, and health authorities are encouraging people to get tested multiple times if they have any suspicion that they could be infected. 

Can I go for a drive?

Buckle-up buddy, cos you sure can! You no longer require a specific reason to go for a drive in NSW. So in the words of Rihanna, shut up and drive. Feel free to check out these scenic drives near Sydney or these awesome road trips further afield.

Are dentists open?

If you’re in a real tooth-related pickle or you're hankering to get those chompers whitened, you should be in luck. Level three restrictions on dentists were eased from late April with many elective procedures now allowed. Many dental clinics have been operating at a reduced capacity. If you're unsure about treatments you can seek, you can contact your local public dental service for triage and advice.

Can I move house?

While uprooting your living arrangements is hopefully not something you need to do during a pandemic, moving house or moving between two places of residence has been permitted all along. Just make sure you observe hygiene and physical distancing rules.

Should I download the government’s contact tracing app?

Dubbed CovidSafe, the technology is one of the tools Australian health authorities are using to limit the spread of disease. Based on digital contact tracing, it's modelled on a similar app used in Singapore. Its purpose is to suppress the issue of ‘community transmission’ – where the infection is spread between people in public. We’ve answered all your questions about it here.

How long does it take to recover from the disease?

Of the first 2000 people diagnosed in Australia, half of those surveyed were fully recovered within 16 days of the initial onset of symptoms, three-quarters were recovered within three weeks and 96 per cent were well by six weeks. However, more and more is being discovered about 'long-haulers' who are ill with the virus for months. Read more here

Stay safe


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