17 February 2022

NSW slashes remaining COVID-restrictions, scales back masks and QR codes

| Lottie Twyford
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COVID shop signs

The use of QR codes will be scaled back across NSW from tomorrow as other COVID restrictions are eased. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The NSW Government is scaling back the use of QR codes and masks as Premier Dominic Perrottet announces a timeline for the end of almost all remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

From tomorrow (18 February), dancing and singing will be permitted in hospitality venues such as pubs and clubs, and the remaining two square metre density limit will be scrapped.

QR codes will only be mandatory in settings such as nightclubs and music festivals.

However, changes to mask rules won’t come into effect until next Friday (25 February). Masks will only be mandatory on public transport and high-risk locations such as hospitals and aged care facilities.

Masks will remain mandatory on planes and at airports, as well as disability care facilities, correctional facilities and indoor musical festivals with more than 1000 people.

But Mr Perrottet said masks will still be encouraged in places where people cannot maintain social distancing, such as retail settings.

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Singing and dancing will be permitted at music festivals from the same date (25 February) and the required hotel quarantine period will be reduced for unvaccinated travellers from 14 days to seven days.

Mr Perrottet said he would work with the state’s public service to bring people back to the office in the coming weeks and he expected other employers to do the same.

The official direction for employees to work from home will be changed to “at employer’s discretion” from tomorrow.

“This is the new reality. We don’t want restrictions in place for any longer than necessary,” Mr Perrottet said.

He said there are “pleasing signs in hospitals right across the state” that the pressure on the health system has eased and the easing of restrictions was possible due to the “hard work of people” in NSW.

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Mr Perrottet said spikes in cases were to be expected throughout 2022.

“That is not a measure of success or failure, that is living alongside the virus,” he explained.

The Premier said challenges were likely to arise throughout the winter and public health settings would be adjusted to suit as and when changes were needed.

The announcements came as NSW recorded another 14 COVID-19 deaths in the 24 hours to 4 pm yesterday.

There are 1,447 people with the virus in the state’s hospital and 92 in ICU.

An additional 9,995 new cases were confirmed in the last reporting period.

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