Major new virus rule change in NSW
More people will be allowed to congregate at NSW restaurants and bars when COVID-19 rules are changed on Monday.
The summertime announcement by the state government means each person who attends a hospitality venue will only need 2sq m of space to themselves rather than the 4sq m currently required.
The new rule will also apply to retail stores and religious spaces and will take effect on Monday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
"From Monday, life will be very different in NSW," Ms Berejiklian said.
The 2sq m rule applies once 25 people are in attendance at a venue. There will be no maximum cap of people as long as the 2sq m rule is followed for hospitality venue bookings, weddings, funerals, regional agricultural shows, corporate events and religious services.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro, who flanked Ms Berejiklian for the announcement alongside other top ministers, said easing restrictions was "a reward for the hard work by the citizens of NSW".
"Last year, bushfires robbed us of Christmas. Today's announcement means COVID is not going to rob us of Christmas," he said.
Gyms and nightclub will be exceptions to the rule, with a 50 person cap and 4sq m required for each person attending those businesses.
For indoor events, up to 50 people will now be allowed to dance together.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said those dancing at nightclubs wouldn't be allowed to bring drinks to the dancefloor.
She said the tough rules on nightclubs were going to be in place to protect against "explosive" virus spreading events, and that nightclubs were seen globally as particularly risky because of the high turnover of people.
"What you might characterise as a normal nightclub experience might be a little bit more COVID-safe," Dr Chant said of the rules.
Stadiums and theatres will be allowed to fill seats to capacity if events are held outdoors, but the 2sq m rule will apply for "unstructured seating areas", according to a government media explainer.
For indoors events, those venues will be allowed to fill seats to a 75 per cent capacity.
There are also changes to rules for outdoor public gatherings. From Monday, the number of people allowed to hang out together outdoors will be doubled to 100.
Outdoor events that are fenced, ticketed and seated will be allowed 5000 people, subject to the 2sq m rule.
And other organised outdoor events will be allowed up to 3000 people, subject to the 2sq m rule. These include community sports events and outdoor protests.
Choirs will be allowed to have up to 50 people singing together indoors, and there will be no cap on singing outdoors. However, congregations and audiences are advised to wear masks.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard cautioned against NSW residents letting down their guard in light of the more lenient virus rules.
"Much of this year has been horrible, in fact almost like hell. I don't want us to go back to that next year, so the community has to understand that they've got to work with us," Mr Hazzard said.
He said the new rules meant pub patrons could drink while standing, as long as they were outside.
"You can stand outside and have a drink as of next Monday," Mr Hazzard said, prompting the Premier to lean in and underline that drinks inside must still be consumed while seated.
The changes come after a previous rule change last week was deemed unsatisfactory by those managing larger venues, which were then exempt from the 2sq m rule.
Ms Berejiklian explained at the time the government was "not quite there yet".
"Health is looking very closely at being able to apply that 2sq m indoors across all hospitality venues, but we're not quite there yet," she said last Wednesday.
Originally published as Major new virus rule change in NSW