New NSW Covid lockdown restrictions: update to Sydney, regional NSW and Canberra, ACT coronavirus rules explained

·13-min read
<span>Photograph: Joel Carrett/EPA</span>
Photograph: Joel Carrett/EPA

The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has announced that a curfew in the 12 greater Sydney hotspots has lifted as the state hit the 80% single dose vaccination milestone. She announced on 19 September that from Monday 20 September restrictions would be “equalised” across all of Sydney including the western suburbs previously under a harsher lockdown.

Earlier this month, she revealed a roadmap out of lockdown for the state, and an easing of restrictions for some parts of regional NSW.

From Saturday 11 September, parts of regional NSW that had seen zero Covid cases for at least 14 days emerged from lockdown. One of those areas, Yass Valley Council, was plunged back into a two-week lockdown from Tuesday 14 September after a new Covid case was detected.

The parts of regional NSW still subject to ongoing stay-at-home orders are listed here. Those areas with only limited restrictions in place are listed here.

Schools will return on a staggered basis for face-to-face learning from 25 October.

Here are the current Covid restrictions in place in New South Wales and ACT.

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When can you leave home?

From Saturday 11 September, residents in parts of regional NSW deemed “low risk” are allowed to leave home and enjoy shopping, pubs, clubs and events.

However, for all other parts of the state, there is currently no change to the four essential reasons people are allowed to leave home:

  • Shopping for food or other essential goods and services. You must shop within 5km of home if you are within greater Sydney. Browsing in shops is prohibited, and only one person per household, a day may leave the home for shopping.

  • Medical care or compassionate needs, including getting a Covid-19 vaccine.

  • Exercise outdoors in groups of two, who cannot travel further than 5km from their home or local government area.

  • Essential work, or education, where you cannot work or study from home

See here for the full list of reasonable excuses to leave your home in NSW.

In the ACT the reasons to leave home are:

  • To shop for essentials like groceries and medicine and supplies that are essential for personal needs or for vulnerable people.

  • To obtain essential health care, including to undertake a Covid-19 test or receive scheduled vaccination.

  • To exercise outdoors for two hours a day with your household or up to five people

  • To provide essential caregiving services.

  • To undertake essential work.

Further details for the ACT are available here.

What about if I live in an LGA of concern?

The curfew has been lifted and from Monday 20 September people living in the hotspot LGAs will be subject to the same restrictions as everyone else in Sydney –except for the rules regarding authorised workers.

Authorised workers who work outside the 12 local government areas of concern are only permitted to work if rapid antigen testing is implemented at their worksite or the worker has had the first vaccination dose by 30 August.

On Saturday 14 August, the government announced that eligible workers aged 17 years and older who live in the LGAs of concern are eligible for one $320 payment in a four-week period if they get tested for Covid-19 and isolate until a negative test is returned. Those waiting on their test results will get the $320 payment in their bank account within three business days of applying online at Service NSW.

There will also be a new $400 hardship payment payable through the Red Cross for temporary visa holders and others in the community who are ineligible for government financial support.

What about work?

Authorised workers from the LGAs of concern are required to carry a permit from Service NSW declaring that they are an authorised worker and cannot work from home.

Anyone entering an LGA of concern for the purposes of work must carry a worker permit issued by Service NSW.

What if I live outside the ACT but travel across the border for work?

The ACT has declared all of NSW as a Covid-19 hotspot. Residents who lived across the border in one of the following approved postcodes may enter the ACT for essential work and healthcare reasons without an exemption:

  • 2581 Gunning, Collector

  • 2582 Murrumbateman, Yass

  • 2584 Binalong

  • 2611 Uriarra

  • 2618 Wallaroo, areas along the ACT’s north-western edge

  • 2619 Jerrabomberra

  • 2620 Queanbeyan, Googong, Karabar, Sutton, Gundaroo

  • 2621 Bungendore

  • 2623 Captains Flat

  • 2626 Bredbo and Michelago

If you live outside these postcodes you will be required to seek an exemption.

If you live in the ACT but travel into NSW for work, you are expected to follow the rules of the ACT lockdown even when in NSW. You will also have to complete a new declaration form every 72 hours.

How does the NSW single bubble work?

Single bubbles have been introduced for the first time in greater Sydney. People who live alone can nominate one person, a friend or family member, who will be allowed to visit, but it must be the same person for the whole of lockdown. They also cannot be from one of the eight LGAs in hard lockdown.

For single residents in the eight LGAs subject to a hard lockdown, the person they nominate to join their bubble must live within 5kms of their home. From 12.01am on Saturday 21 August people in those LGAs will also be required to register their nominated “singles bubble” with the NSW government.

Can I exercise?

Outdoor exercise is limited to five people or to members of the same household.

People must stay in their local government area for exercise and outdoor recreation.

The NSW restrictions state that no community sport in greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour, should proceed.

In the ACT, you can exercise outdoors for two hours a day with your household or up to five people. Gyms are closed and personal training is not permitted inside or outside.

What businesses can open in lockdown?

The following retail premises in greater Sydney must close except for click and collect:

  • Garden centres and plant nurseries

  • Office supplies, hardware and building supplies, landscaping material supplies, rural supplies and pet supplies stores (tradespeople are allowed to shop in-store where relevant).

To remain open are:

  • Supermarkets and grocery stores (including butchers, bakeries, fruit and vegetable stores, liquor stores and fishmongers)

  • Stores that predominantly sell health, medical, maternity and infant supplies

  • Pharmacies and chemists

  • Petrol stations

  • Car hire

  • Banks and financial institutions

  • Agricultural and rural supplies

  • Post offices and newsagents

Employers must allow employees to work from home if the employee is able to do so, failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $10,000.

See here for a full list of which businesses are open and closed.

Business restrictions for the ACT can be found here

What about construction?

Construction work has resumed at “non-occupied sites” outside the hotspot LGAs in NSW. Construction sites must have Covid safety plans.

Tradespeople are allowed to attend homes outside the hotspot LGAs as long as the work can be carried out without contact with the residents.

Construction work in the ACT can continue as usual, but mask rules apply, full details can be found here.

Are schools open?

NSW schools will begin returning to face-to-face learning on 25 October, with a staggered return for different year groups.

Kindergarten and year one students will return to the classroom first, and year 12 students will also be able to increase their time on campus.

Students in year two, six and 11 will return to the classroom from 1 November, with all pupils due back by the second week of November.

Vaccinations for all school staff across all sectors will be mandatory from 8 November. There will also be compulsory mask wearing for teachers and high school students. Primary students will be encouraged to wear masks.

If an area comes out of lockdown settings earlier, students will be able to return to the classroom immediately.

These rules apply in the ACT.

Can weddings go ahead?

From Friday 3 September, weddings resumed in NSW, provided they are kept to no more than five guests.

Regional parts of NSW deemed to be low risk are now allowed up to 50 guests at weddings, with dancing, and eating and drinking while seated.

The same rules will apply to fully vaccinated adults once the state has reached its target of 70% double-dosed.

Weddings are allowed in the ACT but with no more than five attendees (including the two persons being married, celebrant and two witnesses).

What about funerals?

From Saturday 11 September, up to 50 people can attend funerals in parts of regional NSW deemed to be low risk. The same rule will apply to vaccinated adults once the state reaches its 70% target.

Currently, funerals can continue to take place, including in the locked-down areas, with a maximum of 10 people, including the person conducting the service. Attending a funeral is a reasonable excuse to leave home.

In the ACT, the limit is 10 people not including people necessary to conduct the funeral.

Can I have visitors to my house?

If you are in greater Sydney, you cannot have visitors to your house and you must comply with the stay-at-home rules. If you want to visit another person you will need a reasonable excuse to be away from your place of residence. A visitor does not include a person at the place of residence who is there:

  • For work or attend a university or other tertiary education facility;

  • For childcare;

  • As a carer (only one visitor can enter another residence to fulfil carers’ responsibilities or provide care or assistance, or for compassionate reasons);

  • To give effect to arrangements between parents and children under 18 or their siblings;

  • To assist a person to move places of residence;

  • To avoid an injury or serious risk of harm;

  • Because of an emergency;

  • To view or inspect property to lease or purchase it.

In parts of regional NSW deemed to be low risk, up to five visitors are now allowed in a home where all adults are fully vaccinated. In outdoor settings, up to 20 people will be permitted. The same rules will apply to fully vaccinated adults the Monday after NSW hits its 70% target.

In the ACT, no more than two people are permitted to visit another household, but only for the approved reasons outlined above under stay at home or for compassionate purposes.

Intimate partner visits are allowed. People who live alone can identify one other household that they can visit or receive visits from.

What are the restrictions at hospitality and entertainment venues?

From Saturday 11 September, low risk parts of regional NSW will allow hairdressers, nail salons and retail shops reopen, subject to caps of one person per 4sqm. The same will apply to hospitality venues, and gyms and indoor recreation. Sporting facilities including pools can re-open.

These rules will also apply to fully vaccinated adults in NSW after the state hits its 70% target.

Currently, in greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and other locked down areas of NSW food businesses can open for takeaway only. Entertainment facilities, such as theatres, cinemas, music halls, concert halls and dance halls and amusement centres, such as places to play billiards, pool, pinball machines or video games are all closed.

Outside of those areas, the one person per 4 sq metre rule has been re-introduced for all indoor and outdoor settings, including weddings and funerals.

Drinking while standing at indoor venues is also not allowed and outdoor seated events are limited to only 50% seated capacity.

Singing by audiences at indoor shows or by congregants at indoor places of worship is also banned, and dancing is not allowed at indoor hospitality venues or nightclubs. However, dancing is allowed at weddings for the bridal party only (no more than 20 people).

Can I travel interstate?

People in greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong cannot travel.

People in the ACT can only travel if they meet another jurisdiction’s travel requirements prior to entering.

Anyone who has been in the ACT in the past 14 days and is now in NSW is expected to follow the rules of the ACT lockdown for the duration of that lockdown – and also comply with any NSW lockdown rules, if they are in a locked down area.

Anyone who has been in the ACT in the past 14 days and travels to NSW must complete a declaration form. For people who travel frequently between jurisdictions, a new declaration form is required every 72 hours.

People outside of greater Sydney also cannot enter greater Sydney for the purposes of exercise or outdoor recreation. People can only enter greater Sydney for a funeral or memorial service, or for obtaining goods or services if those goods or services are not reasonably available outside of greater Sydney.

A person over 18 who is leaving greater Sydney must also carry evidence showing their address and produce it to a police officer on request.

Other states and territories have closed their borders to parts of NSW and the ACT. Each state and territory is updating guidance on travel rules individually:

What about public gatherings?

From Saturday 11 September in regional parts of NSW deemed to be low risk, stadiums, racecourses, theme parks and zoos can reopen, subject to caps of 5,000 or one person per 4sqm. In ticketed and seated outdoor events, 500 people can attend.

Cinemas, theatres and galleries can reopen at 75% fixed seat capacity.

From 13 September, adults who have been double vaccinated will be able to gather in groups of five, outside, within the 5km limit.

Until then, outdoor public gatherings were limited in greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong and other areas in lockdown to two people. In these areas, you must not participate in an outdoor public gathering unless you are:

  • Working or attending a university or other tertiary education facility

  • Providing care or assistance to vulnerable persons

  • Gathering with your household

  • Gathering for a funeral

  • Providing emergency assistance to a person

  • Fulfilling a legal obligation

  • Moving home or moving your business to a new premises

See here for a list of exemptions to these rules.

Rules for the ACT are similar but check for detail.

Outside of the areas in lockdown, up to 200 people can gather in an outdoor public place such as a park, reserve, beach, garden or public space.

Outdoor seated events are limited to 50% seated capacity.

What are the rules around masks?

From Monday 23 August, the following additional rule was introduced for greater Sydney (including regional NSW until 28 August):

Mask wearing is mandatory when outside your home, except when exercising. In the ACT, face masks must be worn at all times upon leaving home, including in workplaces, and by all people aged 12 and above.

See the full list of what you can do in NSW at the NSW Health website.

  • Due to the unprecedented and ongoing nature of the coronavirus outbreak, this article is being regularly updated to ensure that it reflects the current situation at the date of publication. Any significant corrections made to this or previous versions of the article will be footnoted in line with Guardian editorial policy.

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