News ‘Safe to go out’: Businesses hope easing of restrictions will revive confidence
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‘Safe to go out’: Businesses hope easing of restrictions will revive confidence

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Businesses hope the winding back of restrictions from Friday will give people confidence to go out again after a “tumultuous” two years capped off by a tough past few months.

NSW and Victoria will scrap a raft of COVID rules on the road “back to normal”, and more restrictions will be wound back from next week.

In NSW, the two metre density limit for indoor venues will be scrapped, work-from-home directions thrown out and QR check-ins only kept for nightclubs and music venues (with singing and dancing revived except for music festivals until Feb 25).

Then from next Friday February 25, NSW residents can ditch face masks except for public transport, in airports, aged care and disability facilities, jails and at indoor music festivals with more than 1000 people.

In Victoria, a range of freedoms return from 6pm Friday including the scrapping of check-in for retail, schools and workplaces and density limits in hospitality and entertainment venues.

Dancing is back but check-ins will still be required in pubs, bars, restaurants and entertainment premises to ensure double-vaccination.

International traveller permits will also be scrapped and unvaccinated traveller quarantine periods will be halved to seven days.

A mandate requiring key industries to undertake surveillance testing will be replaced with a recommendation, and hospital worker bubbles will end.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the state’s Omicron wave had passed its peak, allowing Victoria to begin moving “back to normal”.

He said decisions around indoor mask requirements and return to offices would be determined over the next week, with an announcement likely next Friday.

ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis said he was “hugely appreciative” of the easing of restrictions after the industry had weathered a “tumultuous” two years.

“The past few months have been tough for clubs, as people just haven’t been going out like they used to,” Mr Landis said.

“We hope this decision sends a signal to the public that it is safe to go out once again and boost their confidence to return to their local club.”

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet rolled back restrictions earlier than expected. Photo: AAP

Daniel Hunter, Business NSW chief executive, said it meant businesses could now “plan for their future”.

He said staff would return to offices and revitalise city centres, “supporting small businesses that have been on their knees”.

“One of the biggest barriers to people returning to the office has been the requirement to wear a mask while sitting at a desk, that’s been taken away now,” he said.

Sydney’s city centre is struggling, said Paul Nicolaou, the executive director of Sydney Business, who welcomed the lifting of restrictions.

“While the capacity limits continued to prevent many venues making money by reducing numbers at events and live performances, they can now get on with turning a profit,” he said.

He said QR codes “had their place” but felt it was “time to scrap them” and make it easier for customers.

He pointed out that international tourists would not download the Service NSW app, creating a situation where staff had to check them in.

On Thursday, NSW reported 9995 new COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths, as paramedics took part in 24 hours of industrial action, demanding better pay and conditions.

The number of new cases was 468 fewer than the previous day.

Some 1447 COVID-19 patients were in hospital, a drop of 31, with 92 people in intensive care.

Victoria recorded 8501 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and a further nine deaths.

Vaccination fraud warning

A new report has warned of vaccination-related fraud risks as Australia reopens to international travellers in coming months.

The federal parliament’s joint committee on law enforcement has released its final report into vaccine-related fraud and security risks, following an interim report released last year.

The committee found that while cases of fraud were uncommon, there were areas of risk.

“The committee is conscious that risks remain in relation to vaccination-related fraud, particularly as Australia opens its borders to more international visitors in coming months,” it said.

“Australian law enforcement and health agencies will have to remain vigilant to continue to protect the health and wellbeing of Australians while allowing for the gradual resumption of travel.”

But the committee said it was satisfied law enforcement and health agencies had the capabilities and tools to protect Australians.

The U4 Anti-corruption Resource Centre told the committee organised crime networks, corrupt healthcare workers and anti-vaxxers were the main perpetrators of fraud.

It cited examples of fake certificates in Italy and a doctor providing fake inoculations in Greece to obtain certificates for his virus-skeptic friends.

But no evidence was provided to the committee to suggest forgery of international vaccination certificates had to date been used for entry into Australia.

Australia will reopen to all fully vaccinated tourists, business travellers and other visitors from Monday.

Visa holders who are not fully vaccinated will still require a valid travel exemption to enter Australia, and will be subject to state and territory quarantine requirements.

The federal government is also working with the states and territories on the safe resumption of the cruise industry.

Moderna approved for kids

A second COVID-19 vaccine has been given the green light for children, with the medical regulator provisionally approving Moderna for those aged six years and older.

A final approval will need to be granted by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

-with AAP