Sydney Enters First Day of New Mask Rules

Sydney Enters First Day of New Mask Rules
A woman wears a face mask as she walks through the Chinatown district in Sydney, Australia on March 4, 2020. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Mandatory mask restrictions are in place for many venues across Greater Sydney as New South Wales works to contain COVID-19 outbreaks while avoiding harsh lockdown measures.

The state reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, five of which from western and southwestern Sydney and linked to the Berala cluster.

“What we want to do is make sure we’re not in a situation where we are restricting people’s ability to go about their business,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Saturday.

“In fact, we want to increase economic activity, not diminish economic activity, and mask-wearing in these settings will ensure we have the confidence to do that.”

From midnight, masks became mandatory in shopping centres, on public transport, in places of worship, hair and beauty premises and entertainment venues such as cinemas.

All hospitality staff are also required to wear one, with anyone disobeying the health order to be fined $200 from Monday.

Children under 12 and those with specific health disorders are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where possible.

On Saturday evening, NSW Health ramped up its alert for a western Sydney bottle shop, with many of its customers of the Christmas holiday period now considered to be close contacts.

The alert for the Berala BWS now covers long periods on every day between Dec. 22 and New Year’s Eve, except Christmas Day.

Anyone who went to the Berala BWS for any amount of time in those periods must isolate for 14 days.

Stay-at-home orders will continue for residents north of the Narrabeen Bridge in the northern beaches until at least January 9, while people in the southern half of the region will have the same restrictions as the rest of greater Sydney.

Restrictions imposed on businesses and gatherings include gym classes reduced to 30 people and places of worship and funerals limited to one person per four square metres, and up to a maximum of 100 people per separate area.

Outdoor performances and protests are reduced to 500 people and controlled outdoor seated events reduced to 2000.

However, Berejiklian has defended allowing the Australia-India Test match to be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground from Jan. 7.

At least 20,000 people are expected to attend the match each day.

“We appreciate what people might say about us continuing to hold those events, but also consider the thousands of jobs it keeps, consider the sense of normality it gives us,” Berejiklian said.

By Nick Gibbs