A swathe of new COVID-19 restrictions are being introduced in NSW this weekend, in a bid to combat a virus outbreak that has lasted longer than a month.
Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour have been in a lockdown for three weeks, while social distancing restrictions have been imposed on all other areas in NSW.
The government will also be introducing harsher penalties for businesses breaching public health orders.
The new restrictions are complicated, and apply to the areas already in lockdown (Greater Sydney and its surrounds).
They’re all due to be lifted at midnight on July 30 — but that could still be extended.
What you’re allowed to do depends on where you live.
Here’s everything you need to know about what’s changing.
Ban on leaving Sydney’s south west
Residents in three local government areas (LGAs) in Sydney’s south west have been banned from leaving that area for work.
Until now, authorities had encouraged everyone in Greater Sydney and its surrounds to work from home if they could, but the definition of who was an essential worker was left up to employees and businesses to decide.
That’s changing. From 11:59pm on Saturday, people in the LGAs of Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown are able to leave those areas for work.
While the COVID-19 outbreak may have started in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, it’s now taken hold in those areas, and authorities are concerned about the mounting number of cases there.
Under the new rules, the only people who will be able to leave those areas for work are essential health and emergency services workers.
People who are employed in the aged-care and disability sectors are counted as health workers.
Even then, people who are exempt and able to leave the suburbs must get COVID-19 tests every three days, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Major changes to retail
The next changes affect retail businesses in Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour.
From 11:59pm on Saturday, many retail premises will be forced to close, although they’ll still be able to provide a “click and collect” service, as well as takeaway and home delivery.
Essentially, unless the retail business is absolutely essential, customers will no longer be able to physically walk in and look at items on shelves.
Shops that can still operate include:
- Supermarkets and grocery stores (including bottle shops, butchers, bakeries and fishmongers)
- Stores that predominantly sell health, medical, maternity and infant supplies
- Pharmacies and chemists
- Banks and financial institutions
- Hardware stores
- Agricultural stores
- Pet supplies
- Post officers and newsagencies
- Office supplies
Under the current guidelines, if you’re planning to go to a retail business that is open, you must check-in using the Service NSW smartphone app, and wear a face mask.
COVID-19 clusters have emerged at several construction sites and businesses associated with that industry over the past two weeks.
From 12:01am on Monday, July 19 all construction in Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour will be banned.
It means major government projects, like the Sydney Metro, and WestConnex, will be stalled.
All non-urgent maintenance, including cleaning services and repair work on residential premises, will be paused.
However, you’re still allowed to get tradies to come to your house to fix emergency issues like a broken hot water system, or a hole in your roof.
New work-from-home order
While people in Greater Sydney and its surrounds have been encouraged to work from home for weeks, the rules around this are being tightened from 12:01am on Wednesday, July 21.
From then, businesses must allowed staff to work from home if they are able to.
Failure to do this can result in a fine of up to $10,000.
Current restrictions refresher
Remember, Greater Sydney and its surrounds were already subjected to a lot of restrictions under the lockdown, which has lasted for three weeks.
Here’s a refresher.
You’re only allowed to leave home for the following four reasons:
- Shopping for food or other essential goods and services
- Medical care or compassionate needs (including to get a COVID-19 vaccine)
- Exercise outdoors
- Essential work, or education, where you cannot work or study from home
And here’s some of the finer details:
- You can only gather outside in groups of two (or, with members of your household) and it must be for exercise
- If you’re exercising, you can only do so within 10km of your home
- Carpooling is not allowed, unless you’re with members of your household
- You must wear a face mask when indoors (unless you’re at home), or when you can’t socially distance outdoors
- Only one person, per household, per day may leave home to shop
All COVID-19 restrictions in NSW are due to finish at midnight on July 30 — but authorities have warned they may need to be extended.