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Sydney virus restrictions soon to ease

Rules on wearing masks and restrictions on gatherings and functions will soon ease across Sydney after the NSW government announced a raft of revised health measures.

A further easing of restrictions is also likely in a fortnight’s time.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday announced that restrictions would ease from Friday on gatherings and functions in Greater Sydney.

Sydneysiders could invite up to 30 people inside their homes, while picnics and other outdoor gatherings – including in yards – can number 50 people.

Attendee caps at weddings and funerals have been lifted to 300 people, while caps have been removed altogether on corporate events, religious gatherings and hospitality venues. However the “four square metre” rule still applies.

Ms Berejiklian told reporters restrictions limiting venues to one person per four square metres may be revised to two square metres in a fortnight.

“Businesses can know that in a couple of weeks’ time they will (enjoy) increased trade and be able to plan for the year ahead,” she said.

Rules on mask usage around Greater Sydney would also change, with usage recommended but no longer mandatory in retail settings.

Residents will continue to be obliged to wear a mask on public transport, at religious gatherings, in gaming rooms, at hairdressers and beauticians and while working in a public-facing role in hospitality venues.

Ms Berejiklian said mandatory mask usage on public transport would be important to coax Sydney CBD workers back to office work.

Current rules dictate that masks are compulsory in indoor venues in Greater Sydney, the Central Coast and Wollongong, while five visitors are allowed in homes and a maximum of 30 people can gather outside.

“The other thing we need to note, which is a big difference from pre-Avalon (cluster), is that these new virulent (UK and South African) strains of the virus – we are still working out what they are doing,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Opposition Leader Jodi McKay said Labor supported the government’s changes but argued stringent mask rules should remain in place.

NSW recorded zero locally-acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, its 10th consecutive day without a local case.

However NSW Health urged people in southwest Sydney to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms after virus fragments were detected at Liverpool sewage treatment plant, and hoped to see an uptick in testing numbers.

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