New South Wales is relaxing coronavirus rules in time for Christmas – and it could force workers back to the office

New South Wales is loosening coronavirus restrictions. (James D. Morgan, Getty Images)
  • The New South Wales government is loosening COVID-19 restrictions in time for Christmas.
  • Restaurants and pubs will be able to hold one person for every two square metre, and small venues up to 50 patrons.
  • Household gatherings will be able to include up to 30 people, up from the long-standing 20-person limit.
  • Employers will no longer be required to allow staff to work from home where possible, as the state’s public health order is repealed.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The New South Wales government is laying the groundwork for a Christmas-led recovery, as it revises the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

From December 1, restaurants and pubs will be able to effectively welcome back twice as many patrons, with one person allowed in every two square metres. Meanwhile, households will be able to enjoy gatherings of up to 30 people, increased from the long-standing 20-person limit.

“I hope these changes provide a boost to the hospitality industry and give people certainty in how they can celebrate safely with family, friends and colleagues over the Christmas and New Year period,” Premier Gladys Berejikian said.

Up to 50 people will be allowed to patronise small venues and outdoor spaces, up from the previous limit of 30. The New South Wales government still recommends household gatherings take place outdoors where possible to minimise the possible risk of transmission.

The health order forcing employers to allow employees to work from home will also be wound back, meaning more workers could soon find themselves trudging back to the office in a move eagerly welcomed by the property industry.

“Bringing people back to COVID-safe workplaces will help to re-energise our CBD and support all of those businesses who rely on people going to and from their workplace,” Property Council NSW Executive Director Jane Fitzgerald said.

“Our members who own and manage CBD office buildings have already put in place procedures and practices that will help people come back to the workplace safely.”

As part of a greater effort to contain and trace future outbreaks, the New Soth Wales government has also mandated venues electronically register the contact details of all guests.

“Digital systems are contactless and safer to use, and allow NSW Health to respond faster to outbreaks,” Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said. “Inspectors will be out in the community enforcing compliance and will crack down on wrongdoing.”

The changes will become effective on the same day that the Queensland-New South Wales border reopens, following a months-long standoff between the states’ respective premiers.

The decision comes after New South Wales recorded 28 days without an untraceable community transmission. Berejiklian said while progress had been made, there was still a need for caution.

“My strong message to the people of New South Wales is please let us not let our guard down. We have come too far to let complacency get the better of us.”