When NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Sunday that the state would begin easing lockdown restrictions on Friday May 15, there was a collective sigh of relief – but also plenty of confusion. Thankfully, she’s since clarified what lockdown will look like going forward, until we enter stage two of the restrictions wind-down.
“My firm position during the crisis has been to follow the health advice and do what’s best for NSW,” Berejiklian said. “Our community has demonstrated that by working together we can achieve positive results. The changes will allow NSW to fire up the economy, while allowing more personal freedoms.”
Here’s what you need to know.
Outdoor and indoor gatherings
Under the new restrictions, which kick in today, outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed. Those gatherings, though, are only permitted in public places such as parks (not private residences). That means 10-person outdoor bootcamps and picnics will be allowed (with physical distancing of 1.5 metres).
For inside get-togethers, you’re are allowed to have up to five people visit your home. Unlike previous restrictions, which allowed two people plus any number of their dependent children to visit private residences, the 10-person outdoor gatherings and five-person house visits include children.
Yes to eating out
Excitingly, dining in at restaurants and cafes is allowed once again. Venues can only seat 10 patrons at any one time, though, and the four-square-metre rule (according to which a venue must allocate four square metres per patron) is back in place. Takeaway is still permitted (see here for Sydney’s best takeaway and the classic dishes you can now get here).
But you can’t have a drink at your local like you used to
Originally, pubs and clubs weren’t allowed to open, but the government has since backtracked and given those with dining areas the green light to trade. It won’t be business as usual, though – for instance, you won’t be able to visit for a beer as the venue’s bars must remain closed, along with the gaming facilities. Ten customers can dine-in at pub restaurants at a time, and if you want a drink that’s available with table service. These venues can continue to offer takeaway.
Exercising, beaches and playgrounds
Apart from boot camps, exercising will be easier going forward, with outdoor playgrounds and outdoor gym equipment also back in action – though not all local government areas have confirmed whether they will be reopening these straight away. Where outdoor pools are open, they can only be used by 10 people at one time, with just one person per lane. Changing areas will remain closed.
Randwick City Council will progressively reopen its outdoor facilities from this morning, including playgrounds, outdoor gyms, basketball courts, skate parks and ocean pools. All beaches in the area will reopen, and are now accessible for general recreation (in groups of no more than 10), and beach car parks will reopen too. Ocean pools in the Randwick area (excluding Wylie’s Baths and McIver’s Ladies Baths, which are closed for renovation), will be open to 10 people at a time. In nearby Waverley, Icebergs swimming pool is not yet opening. The City of Sydney has confirmed it will reopen playgrounds, skate parks and outdoor fitness areas; its netball and basketball courts will remain temporarily closed, as will its swimming pools.
Cumberland City Council has reopened its parks, playgrounds, exercise equipment and public toilets, but its sports grounds will remain closed. Hunters Hill Council’s outdoor playground and exercise equipment are now available to use, and its outdoor pools are open for restricted use. Some netball courts and sports fields will also reopen.
Liverpool City Council and Mosman Council have both announced they will reopen their parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms. Sutherland Shire will make its rockpools, playgrounds, skate parks, outdoor gyms, barbeques and parks accessible to the public again. Fairfield City Council has said it will not open its outdoor pools at this stage, but is yet to confirm if it will reopen playgrounds and sporting fields. At the time of writing, other Sydney councils have not confirmed if they will reopen facilities today.
The NSW government recommends washing your hands before and after using outdoor equipment, and says you should assume the person who used it before you has the virus.
Weddings and funerals
In other big changes, weddings can now have up to 10 guests in addition to the couple and celebrant. Indoor funerals are permitted up to 20 mourners, and outdoor funerals up to 30. Religious gatherings may include up to 10 worshippers.
And what’s coming in the next round of easing restrictions
The changes come after Scott Morrisons’ announcement last Friday of a three-step plan to get Australia back to normal. The prime minister awarded the country an “early mark” from lockdown, due to the low number of coronavirus infections and deaths. Each state has the freedom to decide when it will complete each step, and lockdowns may be brought back if the number of cases rises again.
New South Wales, the state hit hardest by Covid-19, has chosen not to implement all of the federal government’s stage-one recommendations. The federal government’s first step allows regional travel, but the NSW government has not yet adopted this for fear the virus will spread to regional and rural areas, which have remained largely unaffected by the outbreak. It is not yet opening libraries either. These changes will be implemented in the coming weeks.
All three steps are expected to be completed by July. Once step three has been implemented, gatherings of up to 100 people will be permitted, most workplaces will reopen, and regional and interstate travel will restart. There is currently no blueprint for putting larger gatherings and international travel back on the cards.
Find out more about what you can and can’t do here