NSW authorities have issued their strongest call to residents to wear masks when they are out and about, as workers are given the all-clear to return to CBD offices.
As NSW confirmed its 18th consecutive day without locally acquired virus cases on Wednesday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the order requiring people to work from home would be allowed to lapse on December 14.
With that comes an expected boom in people using public transport, particularly at peak times. Transport Minister Andrew Constance urged everyone who did to wear a mask – although they would still not be mandatory in NSW.
“We’re going to see more people returning to office spaces, particularly in the CBD,” he said.
“Please put a mask on. It’s in your interest, and fellow commuters’ interests. It’s about keeping people safe and it is vital, particularly
in the peak periods.”
Elsewhere, Health Minister Brad Hazzard repeated the call for people in Sydney’s south-west to get tested for the virus, after the discovery of COVID-19 virus fragments in sewage at the Liverpool sewage treatment plant in the city’s west.
“We need to recognise that just one case of COVID-19 could be a complete disaster and turn upside down all the good work that we have already done,” he said.
“Testing, therefore, should be paramount in people’s minds.”
Also on Wednesday, Ms Berejiklian confirmed households in NSW would be allowed to host 50 people in time for the festive season, as a raft of COVID rules were wound back.
The 50-person limit will be for homes that can use outside spaces to entertain. Those that cannot will be restricted to 30 guests.
“We do appreciate this has a risk and we appreciate also that at the social events and private homes, social distancing is difficult to maintain, but we ask everybody to be very COVID safe,” Ms Berejiklian said.
In other changes, venues of up to 200 square metres will have no official capacity limit but must follow the two-square-metre rule indoors.
“[NSW] Health is looking very closely at being able to apply that two-square-metre rule indoors across all hospitality venues. We’re not quite there yet,” she said.
NSW confirmed more than 16,000 virus tests in the 24 hours to 8pm Tuesday. It also had four new cases in hotel quarantine.
Queensland dumps Victorian border ban
In other pandemic announcements, Victorians have had an official invitation from Queensland to “come on up”, with the southern state posting yet another day free of coronavirus infections and fatalities.
Just moments after Victorian health authorities confirmed the state’s 26th virus-free day in a row on Wednesday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stood up to say her state’s borders would open to its southern near-neighbours from December 1.
The move had been signalled on Tuesday, when Ms Palaszczuk said Queensland’s oft-criticised border ban on Sydneysiders would also end on December 1.
“That’s wonderful news,” she said of Victoria’s latest “double doughnut” day.
“Can I congratulate [Victorian Premier] Daniel Andrews, their chief health officer and all of Victorians because this is just such fantastic news.
“It means on 1 December, Victorians can also come to Queensland and, of course, Queenslanders can go to Victoria as well.”
Airlines reported a jump in demand for flights after Tuesday’s announcement about the NSW border. Ms Palaszczuk said accommodation operators across Queensland had also already seen a spike in demand.
“Is my state prepared for this? We’re absolutely prepared for the influx of people for the Queensland holidays,” she said.
SA to shake-up hotel quarantine
South Australia has announced a sweeping shake-up of its hotel quarantine, after tracing the origins of its troubling Parafield COVID outbreak to a security guard working in the program.
So far 29 coronavirus cases have been linked to the cluster, which sparked a brief lockdown across SA last week.
Health authorities initially thought a cleaner at the Peppers Hotel in the Adelaide CBD contracted the virus from a returned traveller.
But chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said further investigations had determined that a security guard was the first person infected.
In a further development, Professor Spurrier said an examination of CCTV footage from the hotel had found no breach of safety protocols by staff.
“I can absolutely confirm that nobody was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I think that is the most important thing,” she said.