NSW frees community of isolation requirements
A raft of restrictions brought in to combat the spread of COVID-19 will be ditched in NSW despite thousands of people continuing to test positive each day.
Home isolation for close contacts, hotel quarantine and social-distancing requirements on public transport will be dropped in NSW, while COVID-19 vaccine mandates for some employees could also be relaxed.
The changes to home isolation announced by Premier Dominic Perrottet on Wednesday will come into effect from 6pm on Friday.
People who are household contacts of a positive case will no longer need to isolate at home for seven days, so long as they continue to test negative.
They should still work from home where possible and avoid high-risk settings such as hospitals and aged care homes.
"This will provide immediate relief for so many workforces and businesses who have been hit hard by labour shortages as people are forced to isolate because they are a household contact," the premier said.
From April 30, hotel quarantine for unvaccinated international returning travellers will also end.
The green dots indicating where to sit on public transport to maintain social distancing will also be ditched, however, masks will still be required on public transport, planes and inside airports and cruise terminals.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee had indicated it would be appropriate to drop some of the stricter restrictions once the current wave of infections had peaked.
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the state was over the peak of Omicron "but the plateau is quite a flat line and the decline is quite slow".
NSW recorded 15,414 new cases on Wednesday and 15 more deaths.
Dr Chant warned that authorities still expected community transmission to remain high and she urged anyone with symptoms to stay home.
Society would have to co-exist with COVID-19 but that didn't mean ignoring the virus, she said.
People should also get a flu vaccine because the approaching influenza season was expected to be more severe than the previous two years, when COVID-19 restrictions limited transmission.
While vaccinations had played an important part in protecting people, Mr Perrottet said vaccine mandates would be dropped in some cases:
"We will move to risk-based assessments for employees based on the circumstances they find themselves in.
"I expect various circumstances where vaccines will be required."
The pandemic was not over but it was "a great day for our state" and the easing of restrictions was cause for reflection on the success of the state in dealing with COVID, the premier said.
"It has been a bloody tough two years for the people of NSW."
The government would continue to monitor the situation and restrictions could return if circumstances changed.
The government is finalising arrangements for the second term of school and will provide further information on the return to school later this week.
Industry groups welcomed the easing of restrictions, which they say will help address staffing shortages, particularly in retail and hospitality. Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said:
"Staff shortages due to COVID isolations have been an enormous frustration for small businesses in particular."
"This is an enormous relief."
Restaurant and Catering Australia CEO Wes Lambert said the changes to isolation requirements provided a flexible and workable solution to staff shortages.
Business NSW CEO Daniel Hunter said venues have had to close while healthy staff were stuck at home.
"It also made no sense that some industries were exempt from these rules – the unfairness was creating a two-tiered structure and that was damaging to business confidence and future planning."