SYDNEY, AAP – Business groups have welcomed the early easing of restrictions across NSW, saying it has been “tumultuous” trading within the COVID-19 rules.
Dancing and singing are back in NSW on Friday, as a number restrictions are rolled back earlier than expected across the state in time for the weekend.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said it had been a “very difficult two years here in our state”.
“Many people have made enormous sacrifices but the efforts that have been made … ensured we’ve seen downward pressure on our hospital system,” he said on Thursday.
Singing and dancing is allowed at all venues, apart from music festivals, where it can recommence on February 25.
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The two metre density limit for indoor venues will also be scrapped on Friday, and QR check-ins will only be required for nightclubs and music festivals with more than 1000 revellers.
The direction to work from home has also been thrown out, with the the discretion being returned to the employer.
QR code check-ins are no longer required, and aged care and disability facilities can use systems they already had in place, the premier said.
The requirement to wear face masks is also on the chopping block from next Friday, February 25, when they will only be needed on public transport, in airports, aged care and disability facilities, jails and at indoor music festivals with more than 1000 people.
The easing of restrictions coincides with a lessening of hotel quarantine for unvaccinated travellers from 14 to seven days.
Daniel Hunter, Business NSW chief executive, said it meant businesses could now “plan for their future”.
He said staff would return to offices and revitalise city centres, “supporting small businesses that have been on their knees”.
“One of the biggest barriers to people returning to the office has been the requirement to wear a mask while sitting at a desk, that’s been taken away now,” he said.
Sydney’s city centre is struggling, said Paul Nicolaou, the executive director of Sydney Business, who welcomed the lifting of restrictions.
“While the capacity limits continued to prevent many venues making money by reducing numbers at events and live performances, they can now get on with turning a profit,” he said.
He said QR codes “had their place” but felt it was “time to scrap them” and make it easier for customers.
He pointed out that international tourists would not download the Service NSW app, creating a situation where staff had to check them in.
ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis said he was “hugely appreciative” of the easing of restrictions and the industry had weathered a “tumultuous” two years.
“The past few months have been tough for clubs, as people just haven’t been going out like they used to,” Mr Landis said.
“We hope this decision sends a signal to the public that it is safe to go out once again and boost their confidence to return to their local club.”
On Thursday, NSW reported 9995 new COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths, as paramedics took part in 24 hours of industrial action, demanding better pay and conditions.
The number of new cases was 468 fewer than the previous day.
Some 1447 COVID-19 patients were in hospital, a drop of 31, with 92 people in intensive care.
The teachers union has called on the government to continue providing free rapid antigen tests to students and teachers for at least another six weeks.
The program, up for review after week four of term, has recently been extended for another six weeks in Victoria, and another four weeks in the ACT.
The testing regime continues to be “essential”, the Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT said.